Monday, December 7, 2009

Ripples in the Surf. An AGW essay I wrote 10 years ago is still relevant today


Global Warming may be occurring at this point in history, but anthropogenic carbon dioxide is not to blame. Sudden major shifts in temperature have occurred in the recent and deep past through natural means. The present warming could be a natural shift, unaided by CO2. The Greenhouse Effect theorizes that Global Warming will occur if there is an increase in CO2 gas in the atmosphere. Research has shown that CO2 has not had an influence on certain long-term paleoclimates. This questions the validity of current climate models that base their predictions on CO2 climate forcing.

Ripples in the Surf

Alexander Fernandes

Our planet Earth has existed for roughly 4 billion years (Davidson, pp. 444). Though devoid of any life, young Earth was far from boring. A searing atmosphere blanketed seas of tumultuous molten rock (pp. 43). While Venus today resembles the early Earth, a wondrous change took place that separated the two planets ever since (Bullock, pp. 203). Our beloved Earth cooled.

For the very first time it rained. Entire oceans literally fell out of the sky (Davidson, pp. 43). During the next 500 million years, life miraculously appeared (Campbell, pp. 458). Besides some slimy pools of anaerobic bacteria the earth was still a desolate lonely place (pp. 487). It’s uncertain exactly when it happened but at about 2.5 billion years ago the atmosphere began accumulating oxygen (pp. 458). Some of the bacteria on our planet had apparently evolved the ability to feed directly off the sun. We call this ability photosynthesis and it releases oxygen as a waste product (pp. 487). These new photosynthetic bacteria are ancestors of all the plants on earth (pp. 519).

A lot has changed since photosynthesis transformed the earth (pp. 508). Billions of years have come and gone with plants and anthropods colonizing land only 500 million years ago (pp. 458). 245 million years later, Dinosaurs evolved and perished time and again spanning just 180 million years (pp. 458). Life continues to flourish for another 65 million years (pp. 458). Ice caps grow, contract, melt altogether, and overflow for millions of years at a time (Davidson, pp. 371). Humans appeared at least 1.8 million years ago during an ice age when great glaciers covered Canada and the northern U.S (pp.371).

Thankfully the ice has receded, and we have all benefited from it. In fact there is some alarming evidence that this warming trend will continue. Much debate and speculation is occurring as to what causes this global warming. Some scientists have hypothesized that the greenhouse effect is being aggravated by anthropogenic or human causes (Karl, online). Over the past 50 years temperatures have increased by 0.5° Celsius (Karl, online). Coincidentally this has been a period of major industrial growth around the world. The waste products of humanity, the bulk of which is Carbon Dioxide (CO2) (Karl, online), have been released into the atmosphere at a rate of 5.5 Gigatons (Gt) per year (Robinson, online). This huge amount pales in comparison with the 750 Gt of CO2 present in the atmosphere (Robinson, online), 600 Gt of which is produced naturally. Since some of the 150 Gt of carbon transferred from the atmosphere to the plants and oceans of the world include anthropogenic (human-made) CO2, there is only a net increase of 3 Gt per year globally (Robinson, online). Yet this minuscule amount is thought to be enough to change the climate of the world.

What is popularly called “Global Warming” or the “Greenhouse Effect” actually denotes Anthropogenic Climate Change. The Greenhouse effect explains why the earth has warmth and space does not. The atmosphere acts as a blanket around the earth, allowing the sun’s heat in, and spreading it around relatively evenly (Karl, online). This seems very simple but it can be very complex. The earth follows the basic laws of physics like everything else in the universe, but we know that meteorologists have a very tough time deciphering exactly how those laws work together to give us the weather we will have tomorrow or next week. There are too many variables to count. The weather is in fact a disorganized jumble of overlapping systems whose properties change in relation to each other (Davidson, pp. 148). Climatologists attempt to make sense of the jumble by feeding models of these weather systems into supercomputers (Karl, online). The predictions of these models vary greatly, but some models give rise to the notion of anthropogenic global warming (Karl, online).

The most troubling models predict that the slight increase in CO2 from human sources will effectively increase the heat intake from the sun (Barron, pp. 189-190). It is believed and virtually proven that CO2 re-emits radiation back into space less than normal air does, causing a slight rise in heating (pp. 189-190). This increase in heating is supposed to create a feedback loop in which more heat in turn releases more and more greenhouse gas again causing further heating (Lindzen, online). Through evaporation heat releases more greenhouse gases because H2O is a very effective greenhouse agent (Lindzen, online). Water vapor is far worse than CO2 gas, causing over 98% of all the greenhouse effect (Lindzen, online). CO2 after all only comprises 0.037 % of the atmosphere (Davidson, pp. 370). If every bit of CO2 were removed from the atmosphere, anthropogenic or natural, there would be less than a 2% loss in the total greenhouse effect. Of this 2%, just 0.6% is the total human contribution since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

In this model of the runaway greenhouse effect, any form of heat increase should have the exact same effects as a slight increase in CO2 (Lindzen, online). If for instance the sun were to get brighter just slightly, we would see Global Warming and all the catastrophic consequences that are foretold by the same models. This is because greenhouse theory is dependent on the idea that H2O will do most of the heating after the initial kick (Lindzen, online).

This may seem like an extraneous hypothetical situation but parts of the Phanerezoic Eon are known to have experienced a brighter sun (Davidson, pp. 405). In fact minor fluctuations in the sun’s magnetic cycle length are in keeping with observations of other stars of similar age and size (Robinson, online). Yellow Dwarfs like our star have random fluctuations in their brightness (Robinson, online). We can’t tell by eye or memory of course, but measurements of the magnetic cycle length (brightness) in recent history have shown some very interesting results. When a graph of temperature versus time is imposed on a graph of solar magnetic cycle length verses time as depicted in Graph 1 of Appendix B, an astounding correlation can be drawn from the two (Davidson, pp. 405). It logically follows that a brighter sun would increase temperature and here we have the expected results (pp. 405).

The same style of evidence can also be applied to the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. Graph 2 in Appendix B depicts a plot of CO2 and temperature versus time (pp. 404). It can also be inferred that as CO2 has gone up, so has temperature (pp. 404). This statement is the core evidence of the entire anthropogenic global warming theory. It should be pointed out that while the two plots follow each other closely, ruling out coincidence, it is equally correct to infer that temperature drives CO2 levels. In fact it has been shown that the CO2 concentrations seem to follow temperature change, while solar activity tends to lead it (Robinson, online). Furthermore, temperature changes in history have not required an industrial revolution.

About 1000 years ago a temperature fluctuation called the Medieval Climate Optimum saw average temperatures as high as 1° C above the 3000 year mean (Robinson, online). The Little Ice Age 300 years ago was at least 1° C colder than the mean (Robinson, online). Today we are still below the 3000-year mean, but temperatures are expected to rise steadily (Robinson, online). It is important to note that there are no records of any sort of weather disasters or extinctions during the medieval climate optimum (Robinson, online). The cause of these fluctuations strongly points solar activity, since it couldn’t have been anthropogenic (Robinson, online).

Besides astronomical forces that shape climate such as orbital eccentricity, axial procession, and solar activity, there are also geological climate factors (Davidson, pp. 371). The positions of the continents affect how ocean currents transport water and therefore heat around the globe (pp. 148). Mountain ranges have a similar effect on air circulation and the patterns of the Hydrological cycle (pp. 5-7). The Glaciers themselves exert a cooling influence over the air around them (pp. 371). In fact an Ice Age can be thought of as a period of overgrown glaciers, where the rate of melting is smaller that the rate of growth for a prolonged period of time (pp. 371). We are in fact in an Ice Age right now (pp. 371). Many Ice Ages and Warm Ages have punctuated history (pp. 371). The Eocene Epoch is one notable Warm Age where Global temperatures were so warm that not a single place on earth averaged below 0° C (pp 404). I for one would welcome a return to these balmy conditions, but unfortunately, substantial geologic change must occur before this can happen. That is unless the sun or CO2 forcing changes the climate.

Renowned geologist Jan Veizner has increased the doubt that CO2 levels in the atmosphere can actually force climate change (pp. 698-701). During two major Ice Ages, the Ordivician/Sulurian and the Jurassic/Cretaceous ice ages, CO2 levels were 10 times higher than they are now (pp. 698-701). This discovery does not agree with today’s climate models specifically the energy-balanced climate model (pp. 698-701). Even when this model is corrected for paleogeography and given a 5 % increase for enhanced solar radiation, the models still predict temperatures from 4° C to 6° C hotter than today’s climate (pp. 698-701). The actually temperature at those times was 2.5° C colder than the Phanerozoic standard (pp. 698-701). This means that the models are incorrect, especially concerning CO2’s influence on the greenhouse effect (pp. 698-701).

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies heavily on the results of climate models to predict future weather and their consequences (Lindzen, online). As mentioned earlier, a climate model is basically a model of the earth and all those overlapping systems that control the weather. Equations are derived that approximate these systems and then tuned (Lindzen, online). Models that give results outside the expectations of the researchers are discarded while models that confirm theory are kept (Lindzen, online). This is not so strange since a model is just a moving expression of a theory. Models are not proof.

Since the 1990’s these climate models have constantly been adjusted to fit reality. Initially the IPCC predicted 4.5° to 6° C warming by 2050 (Burnett, online). The prediction has changed however to 0.8° to 3.5° C (Burnett, online). These very same models do not agree with recent history or ancient history. This situation is made much worse when the most serious and catastrophic of these predictions are presented to the public as truth (Lindzen, online). There are reports that all the coastal cities in the world will be flooded, there will be increased precipitation, droughts, the gulf stream will stop and hurricanes will increase (Karl, online). These predictions are completely unfounded and in some cases contradictory to each other. The truth is that unfortunately these disasters are bound to happen no matter what temperature it is. No amount of CO2 is going to prevent or cause these terrible incidents. Meteorologists can’t even predict with any accuracy what the temperature will be next week, yet climatologists presume to know what the weather will be like in 2050.

Greenpeace calls Global Warming the number one threat to the planet (Greenpeace, online). They have decreed that a 1° C rise in temperature is an acceptable limit (Greenpeace, online). Any more would lead to extinctions, as most species will not evolve quickly enough to cope with anthropogenic climate change (Greenpeace, online). This makes a certain amount of sense. Many Ice Ages, and Warm ages, are caused and perpetuated by geologic factors (Davidson, pp. 148). Geologic factors, like mountain ranges and continents, take millions of years to change (pp.148). There would then be plenty of time for evolution to generate new adaptations.

A salient point missing here is that the process of evolution is not clean and pretty. This process is constant and brutally uncaring (Campbell, pp. 392-569). Unfit species will in fact die out no matter what the rate of change is (pp. 392-569). We don’t even know what a good rate of change is supposed to be. Past glaciation transitions have come very suddenly, the most dramatic of which are recorded at less than 10 years (Davidson, pp. 371)! Most of the transitions from mild climates to cold have occurred in less than 100 years (pp. 371). Rapid climate change is not limited to cooling events either. A relatively recent global warming episode, 12,500 years ago, experienced a warming of about 10° C in approximately 50 years (Burnette, online). These major climactic changes happened completely naturally and must have been deadly to the life of that age.

Though it is reasonable to surmise that geography is a major influence on the global average climate, changes in the climate itself need not follow a gradual rate of change. Weather patterns, once established, may have a tendency to perpetuate themselves until a critical point is reached. The patterns may then shift suddenly to newer patterns with greater stability. Combined with external climate factors like the sun, climate change could be a very random and swift event.

The Earth has had a relatively stable climate for the past 11,000 years, which can be described as a milder period of and Ice Age (Burnette, online). It is only a matter of time before a change in the climate occurs. Though it may seem as if humanity can manipulate the climate of the earth, I remain skeptical. We are on the verge of a natural warming trend. It is only natural that we would want to assign some kind of significance to this fact. It is still only the mindless flow of time.

Anthropogenic CO2 does not cause global warming. Nor has CO2 from any source in the deep past influenced climate. Natural processes like solar activity, and the march of the continents, cause global Warming. There is no basis for the claims that humans will cause flooding and droughts and hurricanes. The current rise in temperature and all the subsequent ups and downs in the future are simply normal oscillations of the climate. The scope of geologic history has seen many peaks and troughs of temperature. Any change we might, ever so slightly, accomplish through CO2, will surely be swamped by solar impulse or geologic whim. We might slip into a new Warm Age, then again we might not. This slight increase in temperature that we are experiencing is simply a ripple in the surf.


Barron, E. J. (1995, May, 2). Global Change Researchers Assess Projections of Climate Change. Eos [Online], 76(18), 185 189-90. Retrieved November 17th, 2000 from the World Wide Web:

Bullock, M. A., & Grinspoon, D. H. (2000). Global Climate Change on Venus. In D. Levy (Ed.), The Scientific American book of the Cosmos. (pp. 203). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Burnett, S. H. (1999, June, 30). The Collapsing Scientific Cornerstones of Global Warming Theory. Idea House: National Center for Policy Analysis [Online], 299. Retrieved December 4th 2000 from the World Wide Web:

Campbell, N. A. (1996). Biology. (4th ed.). New York: The Benjamin Cummings Publishing Company.

Davidson, J., Reed, W. E., Davis, P. M. (1997). Exploring Earth. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Gore, P. J. W. Geologic Time Chart. American Geological Institute. Georgia Perimeter Collage website:

Greenpeace. Greenpeace’s International Campaign to Save the Climate. Greenpeace website. Retrieved December 4th, 2000:

Karl, T. R., Nicholls, N., Gregory, J., (1997, May). The Coming Climate. Scientific American [Online]. Retrieved November 17th, 2000 from the World Wide Web:

Lindzen, R. S. (1999). Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus. Regulation: the Cato Review of Business and government [Online]. Retrieved November 17th, 2000 from the World Wide Web:

Robinson A. B., Baliunas, A. L., Soon, W., Robinson, Z. W. (2000). Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Petition Project [Online]. Retrieved January 24th, 2001 from the World Wide Web:

Veizer, J., Godderis, Y., Francois, L. M. (2000, December, 7). Evidence for Decoupling of Atmospheric CO2 and Global Climate during the Phanerozoic Eon. Nature [Online], 408, 698-701. Retrieved December 21st, 2000 from the World Wide Web: [Fee]

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