Climate change (global warming) is a contentious issue with plenty of opinions and a lack of facts. The issue facing mankind is how much impact it has upon the climate (anthropogenic) given all of the other phenomenon that influence climate.
Climate does change; it has been changing for millions and billions of years. Less than a thousand years ago, the earth went through the Medieval Warming Period making Greenland “green”, Vikings explored Newfoundland and vineyards appeared in Great Britain. In the 1800s, the climate experienced “The Little Ice Age”. Since the mid-1850s, the earth has been getting warmer – this began long before we began to consume hydrocarbons. This continued until the mid-1940s then the earth began to cool until the late 1970s, despite large increases in carbon consumption, then warmed until approximately 1997.
The earth’s atmosphere consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen. The remaining 1% of the atmosphere contains gases such as argon, helium, etc. Among greenhouse gases, water vapour is the most common (0.25% of the atmosphere) followed by carbon dioxide (0.04%) then methane. Mankind creates approximately three percent of the carbon dioxide – 0.0012% or 12 parts per million of the atmosphere – a very, very small component. Water vapour (clouds, fog, moisture), in addition to being six times more prevalent, is also significantly stronger greenhouse gas. It is also a poorly understood gas and has proven impossible to model and predict accurately.
The earth’s climate is influenced by hundreds of factors whose impact may range from short to long term. Long term influences include the earth’s orbit and its orbital interaction with the sun and nearby planets (Milankovitch Cycle); medium term influences such as solar radiation from the sun and short-term influences such as El Nino (a change in the circulation in the South Pacific Ocean) and other well known changes in ocean circulation.
Modeling all of these influences, most of which are still poorly understood, is a challenge. Economic, political and social policy is being shaped by these climate models. But how are these models performing and can they be the basis of what we do in society? That is the single most important question in the climate change debate and that is the source of controversy that makes individuals like myself Climate Change Skeptics.
As an applied scientist (engineer) the (climate) theory or models have to work in reality; would anyone fly in aircraft if the theories of flight proved incorrect? Would we go into buildings that were subject to failure because theory did not match reality? Would we use prescription medicine that worked in lab but killed people in reality? No, and neither should we accept climate theories that fail to match reality either.
Since 1997, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and over 100 of the climate models have been predicting increasing average earth temperatures with increasing CO2 levels; the CO2 levels have indeed been increasing however the earth’s temperature, as measured by highly accurate satellites, has not been increasing whatsoever. In other words, the climate models have failed in a spectacular fashion. Anthropogenic climate change proponents call it a “hiatus” or “pause”; I call it a big credibility problem.
Climate is extremely complex and many of the influences are poorly understood and hence cannot be modeled accurately. Scientists have a poor understanding of the single largest influence on the climate – the sun – and how to predict its behaviour. Scientists cannot predict the behaviour of the largest and strongest greenhouse gas, water vapour. Finally, climate modelling experts state that the models place way too much influence on the impact of CO2, that greenhouse gas produced by humans consisting of 0.0012% of the atmosphere.
Anthropogenic climate change is an interesting theory that does not correlate with the behaviour of the earth’s climate. By every statistical measure, the climate has not gotten worse, however the media and “experts” like to claim that normal fluctuation in weather (hurricanes, storms, etc.) is proof. It is not.
Nevertheless, mankind should not continue to clean up its act as it has been for the past 40 or more years with cleaner forms of energy and improved energy efficiency. Carbon dioxide is not the gas that we should worry about; fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide are dangerous pollutants and deserve attention, not carbon dioxide.
It is time to dial down the climate change hysteria and deal in the reality of climate change, not the hopelessly inaccurate climate models which politicians and others rely upon.
Ed McDonald, Sturgeon County