Global Warming Is Real, So Get Over It
by Richard Lessner
Posted Dec 5, 2005
Global warming is a reality. It’s an observable, measurable, empirical, scientific fact. Let’s all say it together: “Prince Charles, Ted Turner, Al Gore -- you’re all right! The climate is getting hotter.”
Yes, the Earth is warming, but human activity has nothing to do with it. The Earth’s climate has been growing warmer since the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago, long before the internal combustion engine, Exxon, SUVs, Halliburton, Democrat congressmen, or other alleged human sources of so-called greenhouse gasses.
The problem with the global warming fear-mongers is their utter lack of historical or geophysical perspective. They’re not unlike Charlie Brown’s sister Sally, who opened a Sunday school essay: “In Church History, it’s important to start at the beginning. Our pastor was born in . . .” For the global warming crowd, the history of the Earth’s climate apparently began the day they were born and any deviation from their lifetime’s experienced “norm” is met with arm-waving, garment-rending, hair-on-fire hysterics. Every hurricane, heat wave, drought, or snow storm is loudly boomed as nature lashing out and striking back at industrial society.
When the climate doomsayers point to North America’s receding glaciers, for example, as evidence of human-induced global warming, they conveniently neglect to observe that 12,000 years ago everything from Wisconsin and Massachusetts north to the pole was covered by a mile-thick sheet of ice. Canada was one vast hockey rink. The retreat of the ice sheet opened a corridor for Siberians to migrate into North America by walking across the Bering land bridge. As the ice caps melted due to global warming the ocean level rose hundreds of feet. Vast coastal areas disappeared under rising seas, submerging the land bridge beneath the Bering Sea and cutting off Asia from America, along with its human and animal populations.
Where once polar bears frolicked in what today is central Illinois, the bruins now have skedaddled along with the glacial ice sheets to Hudson’s Bay. Was this a disaster for the bears? Hardly. It’s all part of the normal climatic cycle of global warming and cooling that has been taking place for several million years. Animals and humans long since have learned to adapt to such climate changes, some of which occurred with startling rapidity. The onset of an Ice Age can occur in as short a span as a few decades, and periods of warming can unfold just as suddenly. So an increase of a degree or two over a century, as the meeting of the climatically challenged in Montreal this week predict, is scarcely cause for panic.
Among scientists it’s hotly debated why about 3 million years ago the Earth suddenly entered into an extended cycle of advancing and retreating Ice Ages each lasting from 40,000 to100,000 years. By contrast, during the 100 million year-long Age of the Dinosaurs, the planet was very much warmer than it is today. While T Rex roamed present-day Montana looking for a tasty Hadrosaurus to dine on, the Earth had no polar ice caps at all.
Some scientists now believe the current cycle of Ice Ages was triggered when the tectonic plate carrying the India subcontinent crashed into Asia, thrusting up the Himalayas and disturbing the global air currents that control the weather. Other climatologists have detected a relationship between the relative brightness of the sun and Earth’s climate. The sun goes through lengthy cycles of sunspot activity, and the changing amount of solar radiation reaching our planet has an enormous influence on climate, many times greater than any imaginable human industrial activity. Moreover, our entire solar system oscillates up and down, above and below the plane of the Milky Way, over a period of 600,000 years in a galactic waltz that may influence the global climate. Volcanic eruptions also dramatically alter Earth’s climate. A single large eruption can lower the global temperature by several degrees. The 1815 eruption of Tambora in Indonesia produced “a year without summer.” Some really huge eruptions have been big enough to spark a new Ice Age.
Human beings, afflicted with temporal myopia, habitually view their immediate circumstances as “normal” and look upon any departure from the perceived “norm” as abnormal, something extraordinary to be feared. But in fact, even over the relatively brief course of human history the climate has undergone significant change. A centuries-long period of unusually warm weather called the Medieval Optimum lasted from A.D. 900 to A.D. 1300. During this period agriculture flourished and populations boomed. England rivaled France in wine production. Vikings colonized North America.
Beginning around 1350, however, the Earth was plunged into the Little Ice Age that stretched into the middle of the 19th Century. Crops failed, famine and disease swept Europe. American newspapers, journals and diaries of the 17th and 18th centuries routinely recorded bitterly cold winters (much colder than those of the 20th Century), prodigious blizzards, and northern rivers freezing solid. The Little Ice Age drove the Viking colonies out of Greenland and Newfoundland. The Thames and the Hudson froze solid. Remember Washington’s heroic crossing of the ice-choked Delaware in December 1776 to attack the Hessians at Trenton? We’re still warming up from this mini-Ice Age and doing just fine, thank you.
The global warming militants persist in talking about “normal” and “abnormal” weather. But there is no such thing as “normal” climate. The Earth’s climate is constantly changing, heating up and cooling down. Sea levels rise and fall. Polar caps advance and retreat.
Our planet’s atmosphere is an incredibly dynamic and complex engine the intricate workings of which we only dimly understand. Since climatologists cannot agree what caused the sudden onset of the Ice Age cycle, computerized predictions about what the climate will be in future decades are simply guesswork dressed up to appear scientific. A single large volcanic eruption, another Krakatoa for instance, can reverse all the data and institute a period of global cooling, as such events have repeatedly done in our not too distant past.
Super volcanoes, mega-earthquakes, tsunamis, enormous landslides, Ice Ages, sudden changes in climate, ever meteor impacts – all these things are normal, if infrequent, events in our planet’s physical history. They only appear unusual because their period of occurrence tends to exceed the typical human lifespan. Hence when they do occur they appear unnatural or extraordinary, like last December’s tsunami in the Indian Ocean or this year’s hurricanes. Once people blamed such natural events on devils or demons; now we blame Big Oil and the family mini-van.
Mr. Lessner is a senior associate at Capital City Partners, a Washington consulting firm. He is the former executive director of the American Conservative Union and editorial pager editor of The Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., and holds a doctorate in history from Baylor University.