Climate change conundrum

Every other blog I read these days seems to take a stance on global warming, so I thought  I’d make my position clear.

It’s abundantly obvious that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will tend to increase average temperatures. If there was no CO2 in the atmosphere the temperature would be around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) lower, resulting in ice sheets covering the entire surface of the Earth. I find that few people actually understand why CO2 causes an increase in temperature – this article explains it quite well.

So adding CO2 to the atmosphere warms the planet. It’s just basic science.

The latest evidence indicates that average temperatures have increased by about 0.5 degrees in the past century. I think that’s pretty small. You could argue that it’s comparable with natural fluctuations. In fact it’s consistent with increases since the end of the Little Ice Age in the 17th century. You’ll have to show me a lot more photos of melting glaciers and sad-looking penguins before you convince me that global warming has had any substantial effect so far. And as for reports that 300,000 people die every year because of global warming, this is just pure hysteria.

So I get just as angry about this new consensus telling me that disaster is unfolding before our eyes as I do with people telling me that global warming is a myth.

But if we continue to add CO2 at the current rate then it will have an impact, perhaps a big one. That could certainly be a bad thing, and it’s a good idea to avoid it if possible.

Hey – isn’t that what we’re already doing? Have you noticed the solar panels appearing on people’s roofs? Have you noticed the energy-efficient light bulbs in our houses? Have you noticed the extra insulation in our lofts? Is it possible that we’re already moving to address the problem, and that in the coming decades we’ll gradually replace coal-burning power stations with less polluting ones and steadily increase the efficiency of energy use?

Yeah, I think so. We need to work hard at it, but it looks to me like the problem’s going to be fixed in a few decades. Then we can move on to the next global catastrophe. I can think of far more dangerous ones just on the horizon.

And to put things in perspective, while CO2 levels were 387 parts per million in 2009, they were as high as 3,000 parts per million during the Jurassic period. On a geological timescale, the long-term trend is for reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere, as plants capture it and transform it into other carbon-based compounds. So it is quite wrong to think about a “correct” level of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. Besides, we are currently living in what is technically an Ice Age (a period in which there is permanent ice at the Earth’s poles). This is an anomalous state – throughout most of the Earth’s history, there was no permanent ice at the poles and we would expect the current Ice Age to come to a natural end sometime even if humans didn’t exist.

geologicalco2

The Earth’s temperature is currently anomalously low, on geological timescales. Source: http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html

By the way, if anyone says something like, “look at what happened on Venus!” you can point out to them that the Venusian atmosphere is made up of 96.5% CO2 and is entirely irrelevant to this conversation (Earth’s atmosphere contains much less than 1% CO2.)

On a timescale of 100 years, I firmly believe that humans will be managing climate (and weather too), and the task will be to engineer optimal levels of greenhouse gases, rather than try to prevent any deviation from so-called natural conditions. We will literally be able to choose our climate, and possibly even our weather.

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2 responses to “Climate change conundrum

  1. Hi There Blogbloggerbloggest,
    Thanks for the info, Where were 300,000-500,000 people killed due to winds coupled with a storm surge in 1970?
    Thanks!
    I’ll be back to read more next time

    • Hi Dakgrind, that would be the Bhola cyclone in Bangladesh. Now google “greatest natural disasters” and you’ll find in #1 place the 1931 China Floods that killed millions and in #2 place the Yellow River Flood of 1887 that killed 1-2 million. The Bhola cyclone comes in at number 5. Now google “probability of rare events” and tell me why an extreme weather event in 1970 was caused by global warming, but the Chinese floods were not.

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