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Human Audacity and Climate Change


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While not a climatologist I do have a graduate degree in biology. And, there is no way around the fact that biology and climate are related. I also keep to date in readings. My nature of work involves a lot of traveling so I get to learn the views of many people. Now,the very groups of people that promote human caused climate change are among those who have indicated that such events as sun spot activity have earthly effects, that there has been a shifting of the poles,that geothermal activities cause dust particles to rise into the earth's atmosphere limiting solar radition..et al. Paleontologists have come to conclusions that Antarctica at one time was tropical due to fossil findings. Geologists claim the earth is around 4.5 billion years old. {give or take a few billion} Now, I have read that in the 1970's climatologists were predicting another ice-age due to all the particles of remnants of burning fossil fuels. Now, especially after that amazing film by Mr. Gore, that humans are making the climate become warmer. Seriously? Perhaps humans may be viewed as the apex of evolution. {assumedly} But, to go as far as claiming that humans [even should they wish to] have that ability is far beyond their limits! Can't these global warming groupies see that their just may..perhaps..be some political elements to this? Can't they at least wait a few millenium before they make such claims? Can't they see economical reasons playing a part in it? Yes, humans have caused for dirty air,dirty water,deforestation,animal extinction, etc. But to claim humans have altered the earth's climate!?! To state that is not even "scientific." Climate is not as the weather; it takes a long..long time to determine a "climate." Just how can the science that is viewed as being excellent if it is 70% correct in weather predictions state claim that the earth is going to significantly rise in temperature to such drastic degree that polar caps will melt,cities underwater,violent storms violating humankind..and so on? Also,the notion of global warming is not even agreed upon among climatologists themselves; there is about a 50/50 split. The only "proof" that the earth may be warming is best depicted in this photoou2s83.jpg.

 

amazing!

 

 

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Now, I have read that in the 1970's climatologists were predicting another ice-age due to all the particles of remnants of burning fossil fuels.

 

Arguably true, though "predicting" is a strong statement. AFAIK, there was more than one climatologist (so the plural is apropos) who modeled the climate and predicted cooling under certain assumptions, such as continued increase in particulate pollution, and it got some play in the popular press. Further study showed that the models had underestimated the effect of CO2, and we curtailed the levels of pollution we were dumping into the atmosphere.

 

However, "climatologists were predicting" does not translate to this being a majority of climatologists, or being anywhere close to a consensus position. As a scientist, you know that one purpose of journals is to "think out loud" about issues being discussed.

 

 

Now, especially after that amazing film by Mr. Gore, that humans are making the climate become warmer. Seriously? Perhaps humans may be viewed as the apex of evolution. {assumedly} But, to go as far as claiming that humans [even should they wish to] have that ability is far beyond their limits! Can't these global warming groupies see that their just may..perhaps..be some political elements to this? Can't they at least wait a few millenium before they make such claims? Can't they see economical reasons playing a part in it? Yes, humans have caused for dirty air,dirty water,deforestation,animal extinction, etc. But to claim humans have altered the earth's climate!?! To state that is not even "scientific."

 

To blindly claim that humans cannot alter climate is unscientific. Political and economic ramifications do not alter the science. People used to claim that we could not possibly pollute enough to cause problems because the earth was too big for us to affect.

 

Climate is not as the weather; it takes a long..long time to determine a "climate." Just how can the science that is viewed as being excellent if it is 70% correct in weather predictions state claim that the earth is going to significantly rise in temperature to such drastic degree that polar caps will melt,cities underwater,violent storms violating humankind..and so on? Also,the notion of global warming is not even agreed upon among climatologists themselves; there is about a 50/50 split.

 

True, if by 50/50 you actually mean 90/10. Climate does take a while to detect, which is why arguments like "it hasn't warmed in the last 10 years" that we've seen recently are scientifically misguided, because it takes a while to tease a statistically significant signal (climate) out of the noise (weather)

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The proof of human induced climate change can be demonstrated by a piggy bank.

 

If you have a piggy bank that you place $10 in each week but then remove $10 from it, you know that, regardless of how much money is in the piggy bank, that the amount of money in the bank will remain constant.

 

But, if you remove $5 from the bank instead of the $10, then you know that the amount of money in the piggy bank is going to increase. Even if you removed $9.99 each week, the amount of money in the bank will still go up (not as quickly, but it will go up).

 

With Earth, the only way it can gain energy or loose energy is through radiation. The sun shines on us and this heats the surface, and then this heat is radiated out as infra-red radiation.

 

For the Earth to remain at the same temperature, then the amount of energy leaving through the infra-red radiation must equal exactly the amount reaching us from the Sun.

 

Just as with the piggy bank, the only way the amount of money in the bank stays the same is if exactly the same amount of money leaves it as is put into it. If any less leaves, then the amount goes up.

 

Greenhouse gasses are called greenhouse gasses because they reduce the amount of infra-red radiation that leaves the Earth. This means that if we increase the amount of these gasses in the atmosphere, then the amount of infra-red radiation leaving the Earth is reduced.

 

We know the amount of these gasses before the industrial revolution and at various times in Earth's history. And, from these we can calculate how much warming should have occurred. The models used quite accurately predict the warming that occurred due to the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere at the time (this is accurate enough that they use the amount of greenhouse gasses as a way to determine what the temperature was - although this is regularly checked and rechecked through other methods).

 

We also can see, from the historical records how quickly these gasses increased (or decreased). What we have seen since the industrial revolution is an ever increasing rate of greenhouse gasses being introduced into the atmosphere and the amounts match the amounts known to be produced due to human activity (so we know we are the major source of these gasses).

 

But, according to what we know from historical records, the amount of gasses in the atmosphere as they are and as they will become if we continue to act as we are will push the amounts of greenhouse gasses to heights seen when the Earth was much warmer than it is now.

 

Yes, in the past greenhouse gasses have fluctuated naturally, but at the moment, the increase in these gasses match the amounts know to be produced by humans (thus are not a natural variation, but a human induced one).

 

And, as the piggy bank shows, if you reduce the amount of something leaving a system without also reducing the amount coming in, then you will get a build up of whatever that "something" is in the system. In a bank, this is money (and a good thing if you are trying to save), but in the climate system, this is energy and it is a bad thing because it will drive change (warming is only one of the many ways this energy can show itself).

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With the increased amount of thermal radiation being trapped by the greenhouse gasses, I can't help but wonder how much longer it will be before the surface temperature of the oceans start to rise in a significant and long term fashion.

 

With such a rise, evaporation of water from the oceans and other water sources will increase, increasing cloud cover and increasing the albedo of the earth, would it not? But if more water is evaporated from the ocean, the salinity of the oceans increases minutely resulting in lower a evaporation rate which further increases the temperature of the water and so on and so forth. Eventually though the reflective albedo of the cloud cover will surpass the amount of thermal energy the earth absorbs, reducing the overall thermal input into the system (just the atmosphere absorbing instead of the atmosphere and the earth) and reduce the amount of thermal input into the ocean and reduce the evaporation rate once again, allowing rainfall to eventually lower the overall salinity level and the evaporation rates start to rise again - thus the system is usually kept in a balance - a sort of hydrological cycle if you will.

 

But say a lot of fresh water gets dumped into the oceans from, say, melting ice caps because the amount of thermal energy radiating out into space is lower than the amount being absorbed by the atmosphere and the earth. You reduce the overall salinity of the water, increasing the evaporation rates further and fueling cloud generation, increasing cloud cover but not lowering the overall salinity level of the ocean because there's so much heat trapped in the system (thanks to a higher greenhouse effect) that gradually the ice caps begin to melt. Eventually the system will self correct once the overall salinity levels of the ocean return to normal (pre-industrial levels) but in order to do that, the earth will need to be mostly cloud covered in order to increase the reflective albedo of our planet and gradually re-radiate the trapped heat back into space. It will take far longer than in "The day after Tomorrow" for this effect to take place, obviously.

 

Articles used in researching this topic:

http://muller.lbl.gov/pages/iceagebook/history_of_climate.html - An interesting bit about previous Ice Ages.

http://www.technologyreview.com/article/24117/ - An interesting article on this topic regarding atmospheric causes that may lead to the next (near future) ice age.

http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=7877 - an article regarding the ice age and its link to ocean salinity - the keystone, if you will, of my interpretation of the current facts regarding global warming and the next ice age due to it.

http://www.is.wayne.edu/mnissani/a&s/GREENHOU.htm - an article regarding greenhouse heating

http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/greenhouse_gases.html - regarding green house gasses and ice levels. Following every peak, there has been a deep but gradual reduction back to the lowest CO2 and highest ice levels (ice age)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vapor_pressure

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salinity

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect

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