Earth warmed a little during the last century as part of the natural climate cycles that have always been happening and always will. The principal agent by far — to the tune of 95% of the total in maintaining an atmosphere that keeps the Earth from freezing at this distance from the Sun — is water vapour, which doesn’t even figure in the computer models that the current hysteria is based on, because you can’t control it, tax it, or blame it on your favorite villains. At 0.03% of the Earth’s atmosphere, carbon dioxide is a minor player, and the proportion of it due to human activities, minuscule — 2% of the 0.03%, which is six millionths of the 5% warming which was due to CO2 to begin with. Put another way, the human contribution works out at three cents in a hundred thousand dollars.
Carbon dioxide did increase over the latter half of the twentieth century, but the assertion that it was all or mainly a result of burning hydrocarbon fuels has no solid foundation. Warming for any reason will release carbon from vast natural reservoirs. Reconstructions of past conditions show CO2 levels up to 20 times higher than at present, before there were any humans at all, and data from such sources as ice cores, lake sediments, and tree rings indicate that in the swings over the ages, the warming occurred first, making CO2 levels a longer-term effect rather than the driver. Mean temperatures actually fell from the late 1940s through to the 1970s and again from around 1998 to the present, while CO2 continued rising steadily, very likely as a consequence of the 300-year recovery from the “mini ice age” of the 17th century. The chart below shows the change in Arctic temperatures over the last 120 years compared to CO2 levels and to variations in the energy output of the Sun. Which do you think is more likely to be driving the temperature?
But even if the recent warming trends were shown to be largely of our own doing, there’s more reason for celebration than the panic that we’re witnessing. Warm worlds are cheerier, healthier, more secure, and better able to support a richer and more abundant biosphere than cold ones. On land and in the oceans, life thrives in the green equatorial and temperate zones, not the icy higher latitudes. A warmer world would transform the vast wastes of Siberia and northern Canada into forests, gardens, granaries, and habitats, opening up huge areas to accommodate the growing population that some view as a blight, and bring water back to such regions as the Sahara and Middle East, that were once verdant. So, if human activity is capable of making a measurable difference, one would think that a good policy to adopt would be to help things along by using the abundance of energy that the world offers, to increase wealth and living standards generally, and enjoy the environmental benefits.
Instead, we hear eminences that inform and direct the world’s peoples calling for legislation to classify carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The irony of such nonsense is that carbon dioxide is plant food, and hence the basic nutrient that supports all life on Earth. A largely unreported consequence of the CO2 increase that took place over the last half century has been a huge increase in agricultural yield, general greening of much of the planet, and more efficient use of water by plants. Because of deficiency in micronutrients, large areas of the oceans are biological deserts that could be “fertilized” at low cost to increase phytoplankton and hence fish populations enormously. Instead of manically and pointlessly seeking to decrease emissions at staggering cost in an attempt to implement an unworkable solution to a nonexistent problem, we could be turning the byproducts of human industrial and agricultural enterprise into living things and abundant food. This really is wonderful news for those who believe that human creativity and cooperation offer the possibility of building better tomorrows for the entire race, and that the choice is ours to make.
It takes real talent in doom-mongering and wilful blindness to turn such promise and potential into a disaster scenario. The Western world has surely never been run by such a pack of fools as those inflicted on it at the present time.
November 22, 2008