November 20, 2006

Climatepalooza: A Global Warming Roundup

Over the weekend, several climate-oriented stories appeared around the blogosphere. One in particular caught some attention, with the arctic resisting global warming and self-correcting back into a state of balance:
An international team of scientists reported Thursday that rising temperatures are steadily transforming the Arctic -- warming millions of square miles of permafrost, promoting lush greenery on previously arid tundras and steadily shrinking the annual sea ice.

Yet the researchers also found new patterns of cooling ocean currents and prevailing winds that suggested the Arctic, long considered a bellwether of global warming, may be reverting in some ways to more normal conditions not seen since the 1970s.

Taken together, these findings may be evidence, the researchers said, of the region struggling to keep its balance, as rising temperatures slowly overturn the long-established order of seasonal variations.

"This is a region that is fighting back," said lead author Jacqueline Richter-Menge, a civil engineer at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H. "There are things that showed signs of going back to norms, trying to right themselves under very dire circumstances."
Nature will always strive for equilibrium, but some scientists propose acceleration of anti-global warming measures, including the counterintuitive borrowing of a page from volcanic activity:
Air pollution may be just the thing to fight global warming, some scientists say.

Prominent scientists, among them a Nobel laureate, said a layer of pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere could act as a "shade" from the sun's rays and help cool the planet.
Volcanic eruptions like that in Indonesia in the 1810s produced rapid global cooling, and this pollution proposal seems to follow the same logic.

Also of note, October 2006 was the second consecutive month of below average temperatures in the continental United States:
U.S. Temperature Highlights

The October 2006 temperature for the contiguous United States (based on preliminary data) was 0.9 degrees F (0.5 degrees C) below the 20th century average of 54.8 degrees F (12.7 degrees C). After a record warm January through August period, this was the second consecutive month of below average temperatures.

NOAA image of October 2006 statewide precipitation rankings. The combination of a cooler-than-average September and October dropped the year-to-date national temperature from record warmest to third warmest for the January through October 2006 period. The record warmest January through October occurred in 1934.
All of which brings us to some logical conclusions--

1) The engine of life known as the Earth is more resilient than humans estimate, even with scientific explanations and computer modeling.

2) Human activity pales in comparison to natural events like volcanic activity and overall natural global climate change cycles.

3) That even with the data we have--or so the "global warming" fearmongers tell us--that the world's climate and ecosystems are not clearly predictable and that even if the results fall within a predicted range of activity, the margin of error is quite large. If 100 years of profligate pollution can only effect a smaller change in global temperature than either an isolated volcanic eruption or known historical warming and cooling cycles, then even drastic human countermeasures are likely to fall very short of solving any problem meaningfully.

A final thought:
Yes, the world is getting warmer, but the Earth does this roughly every 1,500 years, and we cannot stop it. The good news is humans and most other species tend to do better during the warm periods.

There is a wonderful new book, “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years,” by distinguished climate physicist Fred Singer and award-winning environmental economist Dennis Avery. The conclusion of their book in a nutshell is that, yes, the world is getting a bit warmer, but this is just the natural cycle. They provide overwhelming evidence this warming would occur with or without mankind increasing CO2 emissions or doing anything else. The good news is that if we realize we cannot stop global warming, and concentrate on constructively dealing with the problems it causes – which are all manageable at reasonable cost – and then enjoy the benefits, mankind will do just fine.

We have already had two cycles in recorded history; the Roman warming (200 B.C. to 600 A.D.) which was a very prosperous period, and the medieval warming (900 to 1300) during which farms were created in Greenland and Iceland. The modern warming period began about 1850, well before mankind was producing massive amounts of CO2.

As an economist, I have been a bit of skeptic about the various doomsday scenarios associated with global warming. It has been well known for decades that the Earth’s temperature is in a constant flux, and there have been many periods with both lower and higher temperatures. Despite the general warming trend since 1850, we have had cooler periods, notably from 1940 to 1978, when many leading scientists were warning us we were rapidly heading for a new ice age. I can still remember those doomsday scenarios being played out on TV specials at the time.


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