Saturday, January 19, 2008

Whatever Happened To Global Warming?

"...for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero)."
-UK Telegraph

Recently, the question of whether the US should face higher standards of environmentalism and carbon reductions than the rest of the world has been raised. Politicians have suggested massive increases in gasoline taxes, the introduction of carbon taxes, and draconian restrictions on carbon emissions.
Ironically, as I sit at my computer, my home state of Georgia is undergoing the second snowstorm of the week. In a state, which has, over the last few years, received almost zero snowfall, this is certainly big news.

When I was growing up in Georgia in the 1970s and 1980s, Georgia typically got about two or three snows each winter. These snows would get us out of school for a couple of days (since Georgia has virtually no road clearing equipment) and would stay on the ground for several days. Over the past several years, when Georgia had snowfall, it came only once or twice a year and, if it accumulated at all, would be usually be gone by lunchtime. When I examined this anecdotal data from my own life, I was hard pressed to argue with global warming activists, at least on a local scale.

The news of flattening global temperatures comes at the same time that many parts of the United States are experiencing record winter storms and, coincidentally, at the time of the two major winter storms that swept Georgia. If I didn't doubt before, I certainly would now.

Global warming has always been a rather theoretical. It is based on short data trends and computer models. Even the data on which the short trends are based is suspect. Most automated weather stations that climate data are based on have serious quality problems (see As a professional pilot, I can tell you that we take the information that we get from automated weather stations with a large dose of salt.

Assuming that the global warming activists are right, the problem is a world problem, not just an American one. In 2006, China surpassed the United States in carbon dioxide emissions, and combined, the two nations make up less than half of the total. Developing nations make up an even larger share of other forms of pollution. It is clear that the problem is not the United States alone and the solution cannot focus solely on the United States.

Additionally, there is a lack of scientific evidence to show that carbon dioxide is responsible for warming the earth at all. Data indicates that there is indeed a correlation between temperature and carbon dioxide, but not the one that you would expect. In the past, temperature increased first, then carbon dioxide increased several hundred years later. If temperature changed first, then carbon dioxide cannot be responsible for the change.

It seems that the recent information would indicate that it would at least be a good idea to wait and see if which trend continues before we make major changes in an attempt to prevent global warming. If it does, we should look at alternative explanations for warming, such as changes in solar radiation. Temperatures of other planets are also increasing, but their warming definitely cannot be attributed to earthly carbon emissions.

Let's not ban carbon based fuels or initiate massive taxes on carbon until we find out for sure what kind of problem we are facing. Our economy is based on carbon fuels and such legislation would almost certainly slow the economy to a recession. This would be especially tragic if the destruction of the economy did nothing to solve the warming problem. A safer approach would be to begin a change to alternative energy sources, such as cheap, reliable nuclear power, as we continue to research global warming.

Granted, the climate is changing, but how is it changing? The new data questions whether the earth is still warming. Even environmentalists are speaking less of “global warming” and more of “climate change.” The climate is always changing, however. There have been numerous ice ages and warm periods throughout recorded history.

Might we be better off by focusing on adapting to climate change rather than preventing it? Previous warm periods, such as the Medieval Warm Period around AD 1000, were a boon to mankind. Warm temperatures and increased carbon dioxide were so helpful to agriculture that the Vikings were even able to cultivate now frigid areas of Greenland. Warm temperatures might even mean less energy use for heating, which would also save money for individual families.

Environmental issues are a global concern. Regardless of whether carbon is at fault for global warming, global initiatives should be taken to reduce pollution. These initiatives should focus on developing nations as well as nations that are already industrialized, such as the United States. We should be careful not to take curative steps that would be worse than the climate change disease.

Source: /opinion/2006/04/09/do0907.xml

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