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I have for many years enjoyed Horace Brown’s weekly articles on birds. It brings me no pleasure to correct what are significant factual errors in his article by such a passionate proponent of exploring the world of nature. I don’t suppose for a moment that I will be able to change his mind, but refuse to let unreferenced misstatements stand unrefuted (“The Evidence for Global Warming,” March 6).
Actually, I am following Mr. Brown’s own directive that “each of you … start using any powers of persuasion that you may have to influence those in powerful positions to help save this wonderful planet and all of the life that exists here, so that future generations can enjoy life on Earth, as we have.” But unlike Mr. Brown’s brand of unsubstantiated alarmism, I prefer to rely on facts to expose errors, myths, mistakes, and the emotional irrationalism common to most environmentalists.
I will concentrate this commentary on just four of the issues misstated by Mr. Brown.
The planet does not need to be saved from human destruction. I support all efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, as well as real efforts to improve sustainability. These habits are always profitable for the individual and responsible stewardship of resources.
Environmental stewardship is in direct contrast to the effort of most environmentalists today to convince us that using natural resources to improve the quality of life for humans is somehow evil and destroying the planet. The planet does not need to be saved from human destruction. If humans are a part of the natural ecology, then our activities are, in fact, natural. If you have faith in the ability of an ecosystem to reach equilibrium, then as a part of the natural order, man can not destroy the ecosystem except as an act of nature, and believing otherwise is a betrayal of your own stated belief. And if you do believe that we as a species are destroying the planet, let’s start with a total reclamation of the eastern seaboard, back to the state of pristine nature that existed pre-western colonization. Now tell me where you plan on relocating 50 million humans. Now move on to China, India and Europe. Now stop driving your car, or using any modern convenience.
As human population has advanced, so has technology. The clear cutting of the 18th and 19th century was replaced by the use of oil and coal for heat and the eventual oil economy, if not oil civilization. The return of 40 percent more forested land at the end of the 20th century compared to 1950 has re-created large areas of habitat for the displaced wildlife, including the Great Blue Heron.
Consider also that the rampant air and water pollution of the 1970s in the US has been reduced in spite of tremendous population growth, due in part to the force of regulation, but all driven by technology advancement.
The 1970s were full of dire alarmist predictions on food shortages. Today, politics is the main obstacle standing between food and humans. We don’t need to return to the Stone Age or reduce human populations to save the planet. Our inventions, part of the natural order, are already saving it, and the humans who call this planet home.
Skepticism about anthropomorphic caused climate change does not require adherence to Mr. Brown’s three stated premises. Correlation does not prove causation. The documented rise in temperature since 1880 is 0.75 degrees Celsius. It started before the advent of CO2 emissions from the Industrial Age.
The forcing from an increase in atmospheric CO2 of 100 ppm of an inert gas essential for all life on this planet, cannot be explained from satellite temperature data of the troposphere, where the required increase in temperature required for this thermal forcing to exist is negated by data that shows a slight temperature decrease. Specifically, “NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
The paleontology record is full of warming periods. We are currently in an interglacial warming period. Where did the forcing come from that melted the two miles thick ice sheet that stopped at the Ohio River 20,000 years ago? We don’t need to invoke a human cause to what nature is recorded already doing for eons.
Additionally, there is ample data to suggest the warming being believed by Mr. Brown and others does not match the facts. Here’s just one of many reports largely ignored by those who fear the facts:
“The regular data collected on global temperature is called Hadcrut 4, as it is jointly issued by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre and Prof Jones’s Climatic Research Unit. The new data, compiled from more than 3,000 measuring points on land and sea, was issued quietly on the internet, without any media fanfare, and, until today, it has not been reported. This stands in sharp contrast to the release of the previous figures six months ago, which went only to the end of 2010 – a very warm year.
Ending the data then means it is possible to show a slight warming trend since 1997, but 2011 and the first eight months of 2012 were much cooler, and thus this trend is erased.”
The Great Blue Heron is returning for reasons that have nothing to do with global warming.
I have had previous communication with Mr. Brown on the myth of DDT and bird populations, a topic worthy of a separate discussion. The return, I repeat the return, of the Great Blue Heron means that it left for other human caused reasons, and is returning due to the action of humans. This report makes no mention of global warming as a cause, and the steady rise in populations pre-dates any measured increase in global temperatures, and documents that this species once did habitat this area in great numbers.
Specifically, the article states: “…this large fish-eater seemingly adapted to life on the state's reservoirs during the 1980s, and since the turn of the 21st century it has moved onto rivers and streams across the western three-quarters of the state.”
The recent debate on global warming and climate change seeks to establish the power of scientists over policy. They are clearly more interested in shaping government policy and your taxes than any concern for the planet. The scandal of E-mails revealing the true intent of those involved in the forefront of this movement prove as much. Mr. Brown’s admonition is clearly consistent with that same attitude. I prefer facts.
The arctic ice will likely not melt by 2015, and it is not due to CO2 emissions. The demise of the polar bear is also overstated, but again a topic for another time. As far as seasonal ice free arctic is concerned, there were many reports to this effect naming 2015 in the news over the last year, and one of the most vocal proponents of this prediction, Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, does not share the consensus opinion of the government agencies. Even if the arctic summer ice would melt by 2015, there is no clear prediction of its impact.
The reduction of arctic ice is not due to anthropomorphic global warming due to fossil fuels but a natural decadal period atmospheric phenomenon known as the arctic oscillation, which is not related to CO2 emissions. The arctic was free of ice many times before the advent of man, or human fossil fuel burning.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center notes the decline in arctic sea ice extant is not because of global warming but of the arctic oscillation, an air pressure phenomenon that drives temperatures up. It has a normal period of months or decades. It also notes the increase in sea ice at the South Pole. IPCC predicted an ice free summer North Pole for 2100, other as soon as 30 to 40 years. But nowhere can I find any source that is predicting by 2015.
We know for sure that at least in the distant past, the arctic was ice-free. Fossils from the age of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago, indicate a temperate climate with ferns and other lush vegetation.
Based on the paleoclimate record from ice and ocean cores, the last warm period in the Arctic peaked about 8,000 years ago, during the so-called Holocene Thermal Maximum. Some studies suggest that as recent as 5,500 years ago, the arctic had less summertime sea ice than today. However, it is not clear that the arctic was completely free of summertime sea ice during this time.
In conclusion, it was warmer years ago, before humans started burning fossil fuels, and the small warming we are seeing now could be natural. No need to panic. The earth will be here for eons, and the real concern for our children should be the crushing debt being foist upon them by my generation’s wasteful federal spending over the past 50 years, which continues unabated today.
Or maybe Mr. Brown can turn his attention to eliminating the scars on the land in northern Indiana, visible by anyone who drives to Chicago. These monster windmills are killing massive quantities of birds each day. There is a real threat to the birds and the planet.
Rudy M. Wiesemann has been a resident of Shelby County since 1983. He has authored a course on, and taught environmental chemistry at the college level. This piece is abridged from its original length.