September 27, 2013

Climate Change: A Broad View

Several years ago, an accusation was leveled that I was one of about twenty people on the planet that didn’t accept anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Sadly, our number was reduced with the death of that intellectual giant, Dr. Michael Crichton. In his writings, he “likens the atmosphere to a football field. The goal line to the 78 yard-line contains nothing but nitrogen. Oxygen fills the next 21 yards to the 99 yard-line. The final yard, except for four inches, is argon, a wonderfully mysterious inert gas useful for putting out electronic fires. Three of the remaining four inches is crammed with a variety of minor, but essential, gases like neon, helium, hydrogen and methane. And the last inch? Carbon dioxide. One inch out of a hundred-yard field! At this point I like to add, if you were in the stands looking down on the action, you would need binoculars to see the width of that line. And the most important point-how much of that last inch is contributed by man-made activities? Envision a line about as thin as a dime standing on edge. Are you still worried about the dangers of CO2?”

By the time they’re in elementary school, kids in Minnesota link the seasons, warmth and cold, grass and snow, and hours of daylight and darkness to the sun – that wonderful combination camp stove and lantern in the sky. Their observations are empirical. They know nothing about the internal and external physical, chemical, and biological influences exerted upon the planet. From the far reaches of space: cosmic rays. From our solar system: variances in solar output, solar magnetic influences/solar wind, earth-sun orbital variations, obliquity, earth axial tilt. Earth planetary forces: plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanism, ocean current gradients, earth magnetic field variations. Toss in the secondary effects: hurricanes, tornadoes, straight winds, tsunamis, flooding, lightning-caused fires, methane from termites and rice paddies, ruminant flatulence, bacterial and fungal ‘outgassing’ during the decomposition of organic material. The kids keep it simple: more sun means more light and more warmth; it is cooler in the shade; snow always disappears first on the sunny side of the street.

By the time they start studying science, they’re exposed to a few facts.

Matter is neither created nor destroyed, only changed in form.

The geologic age of planet earth is 4.54 billion years old. (4.54x10^9).

Homo sapiens is 60-100,000 years on the planet. (1.00x10^5).

Industrial revolution man is 250 years old. (2.50x10^2).

How is it possible, they ask, that, in a fraction (0.000000055 or 0.0000055%) of earth time, 'industrial revolution man’, by keeping warm, planting crops, driving to work, benefiting from AC power, by just going about his normal business, has endangered the survivability of the planet? How is it possible that a trace gas, CO2, measured in ppm (385ppm), utilized by plants as raw material for photosynthesis, exhaled by mammals, absorbed in H2O, incorporated into shellfish, and functioning as one of nature’s buffering systems might be responsible for an earth calamity? Further study reveals that 700 million years ago the earth was a giant ball of ice. Ten thousand years ago, the land upon which their hometown is built was under a mile-deep glacier. What happened to that ice? What caused the warming? Why did the climate change? Greenland was once green. The oceans were once 500 feet shallower. The Sahara was a pasture.

As the kids mature, they recognize an important distinction in the climate-alarmists' position. The climate-change gurus are advocates for Gaia. They allege that ‘man’ is making Gaia sick. More specifically, it is ‘western man’, in his wild pursuit of the ‘good life’, that imperils Gaia. Other men, living more modestly, in greater harmony with Gaia, are not held responsible. In their nobility, these citizens are deemed worthy of compensation drawn from the accounts of the profligate. Furthermore, the kids wonder why the battery of computer models, currently projecting impending doom, are unable to replicate the conditions of the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age when using their proxy data?

Among those kids who aspire to the status of 'philosopher kings’, fundamental ‘truths’ began to coalesce. Man, alone among the species of the Earth, has moved beyond the elemental functions of life: eating, peeing, pooping, sleeping, fighting, copulating. Man is special. Only Man has been granted knowledge of the Creator and spends time pondering such things. He has been granted dominion over God’s creation. No other species, visible or invisible, has philosophers, politicians, healers, dreamers, farmers, plumbers, pilots, musicians, geeks, nerds, or professional athletes.

No other species has mortgages, retirement accounts, medical insurance, drives automobiles, flies space craft, or explores the oceans and the cosmos.

Then, there are other kids who may choose to agree with Professor Stephen W. Hawking – that on a planetary scale, man is merely ‘pond scum’.

Regardless, every decision made by Man about these matters should be assessed only in terms of whether ‘it is in Man’s (or pond scum’s) best interest’ – that is, anthropocentric.

If it is found to be in Man's interest, it should follow that it will likely be in the interest of the rest of the species and the planet.

Should Man err, he disappears. The planet will, without pause, consume his remains and move forward as history has recorded.

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