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     Feb 25, 2005
The global warming scam
By Derek Kelly, PhD

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Scam, noun: a swindle, a fraudulent arrangement.

A chronology of climate change
During most of the last billion years the Earth did not have permanent ice sheets. Nevertheless, at times large areas of the globe were covered with vast sheets of ice. Such times are known as glaciations. In the past 2 million to 3 million years, the temperature of the Earth has changed (warmed or cooled) at least 17 times, some say 33, with glaciations that last about 100,000 years interrupted by warm periods that last about 10,000 years.

The last glaciation began 70,000 years ago and ended about 10,000 years ago. The Earth was a lot colder than it is now; snow and ice had accumulated on a lot of the land, glaciers existed on large areas and the sea levels were lower.

15,000 years ago: The last glaciation reaches a peak, with continental glaciers that cover a lot of the sub-polar and polar areas of the land areas of Earth. In North America, all of New England and all of the Great Lakes area, most of Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota and the North Dakotas, lie under ice sheets hundreds of meters thick. More than 37 million cubic kilometers of ice was tied up in these global sheets of ice. The average temperature on the surface of the Earth is estimated to have been cooler by approximately 6 degrees Celsius than currently. The sea level was more than 90 meters lower than currently.

15,000 years ago to 6,000 years ago: Global warming begins. The sheets of ice melt, and sea levels rise. Some heat source causes approximately 37 million cubic kilometers of ice to melt in approximately 9,000 years. Around 9,500 years ago, the last of the Northern European sheets of ice leave Scandinavia. Around 7,500 years ago, the last of the American sheets of ice leave Canada. This warming is neither stable nor the same everywhere. There are periods when mountain glaciers advance, and periods when they withdraw. These climatic changes vary extensively from place to place, with some areas affected while others are not. The tendency of warming is global and obvious, but very uneven. The causes of this period of warming are unknown.

8,000 years ago to 4,000 years ago: About 6,000 years ago, temperatures on the surface of Earth are about 3 degrees warmer than currently. The Arctic Ocean is ice-free, and mountain glaciers have disappeared from the mountains of Norway and the Alps in Europe, and from the Rocky Mountains of the United States and Canada. The ocean of the world is some three meters higher than currently. A lot of the present desert of the Sahara has a more humid, savannah-like climate, with giraffes and savannah fauna species.

4,000 years ago to AD 900: Global cooling begins. The Arctic Ocean freezes over, mountain glaciers form once more in the Rocky Mountains, in Norway and in the Alps. The Black Sea freezes over several times, and ice forms on the Nile in Egypt. Northern Europe gets a lot wetter, and the marshes develop again in previously dry areas. The sea level drops to approximately its present level. The temperatures on the surface of the Earth are about 0.5-1 degree cooler than at present. The causes of this period of cooling are unknown.

AD 1000 to 1500: This period has quick, but uneven, warming of the climate of the Northern Hemisphere. The North Atlantic becomes ice-free and Norse exploration as far as North America takes place. The Norse colonies in Greenland even export crop surpluses to Scandinavia. Wine grapes grow in southern Britain. The temperatures are from 3-8 degrees warmer than currently. The period lasts only a brief 500 years. By the year 1500, it has vanished. The Earth experiences as much warming between the 11th and the 13th century as is now predicted by global-warming scientists for the next century. The causes of this period of warming are unknown.

1430 to 1880: This is a period of the fast but uneven cooling of Northern Hemisphere climates. Norwegian glaciers advance to their most distant extension in post-glacial times. The northern forests disappear, to be replaced with tundra. Severe winters characterize a lot of Europe and North America. The channels and rivers get colder, the snows get heavy, and the summers cool and short. The temperatures on the surface of the world are about 0.5-1.5 degrees cooler than present. In the United States, 1816 is known as the "year with no summer". Snow falls in New England in June. The widespread failure of crops and deaths due to hypothermia are common. The causes of this period of cooling are unknown.

1880 to 1940: A period of warming. The mountain glaciers recede and the ice in the Arctic Ocean begins to melt again. The causes of this period of warming are unknown.

1940 to 1977: Cooling period. The temperatures are cooler than currently. Mountain glaciers recede, and some begin to advance. The tabloids inform us of widespread catastrophes due to the "New Glaciation". The causes of this period of cooling are unknown.

1977 to present: Warming period. The summer of 2003 is said to be the warmest one since the Middle Ages. The tabloids notify us of widespread catastrophes due to "global warming". The causes of warming are discovered - humanity and its carbon-dioxide-generating fossil-fuel use and deforestation.

Anyone else find something fishy about the final sentence?

The above chronology of recent (geologically speaking) climate changes should place global-warming catastrophists (such as those who developed the Kyoto treaty) in an awkward position. Their fundamental assumption is that Earth's climate was stable and was doing just fine before the Industrial Revolution started interfering with climate's "natural" state. It is the Industrial Revolution, and in particular the use of fossil-fuel-burning machines, that has led us to the brink of environmental catastrophe due to global warming caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

But it is plain to see that both warming and cooling occurred numerous times before the Industrial Revolution. Similarly, all the dire predictions of global-warming consequences - sea-level rise, for example - have happened in the past. In fact, the greatest warming period was when dinosaurs walked the land (about 70 million to 130 million years ago). There was then five to 10 times as much CO2 in the atmosphere as there is today, and the average temperature was 4-11 degrees Celsius warmer. Those conditions should have been very helpful to life, since they permitted those immense creatures to find an abundance of food and they survived.

The Cretaceous was an intense "greenhouse world" with high surface temperatures. These high temperatures were due to the much higher level of CO2 in the atmosphere at the time - four to 10 times as much as is in our air today. The biota was a mixture of the exotic and familiar - luxuriant green forests of now-extinct trees flourished within the Arctic Circle and dinosaurs roamed. The global sea level was at its highest ever during this period, peaking during the Late Cretaceous around 86 million years ago. It is certain that the global sea level was well over 200 meters higher during this time than it is today. The Earth was immensely hotter, the CO2 vastly more plentiful, and the sea levels much higher than they are today.

The Earth has also been immensely colder, the CO2 much less plentiful, and the sea levels much lower than today. Fifteen thousand years ago, the sea level was at least 90 meters lower than it is today. The land looked bare because it was too cold for beech and oak trees to grow. There were a few fir trees here and there. No grass grew, however, just shrubs, bushes and moss grass. In the northern parts of North America, Europe and Asia there was still tundra. The animals were different from today too. Back then there were woolly mammoth, woolly rhinos, cave bears (the former three now extinct), bison, wolves, horses, and herds of reindeer like modern-day reindeer.

The major "sin" for the global warmists is CO2. The Kyoto treaty is meant to reduce the amount of this gas so as, they say, to reduce the degree of warming and eventually return us to some stable climate system. If we look at the historical situation, however, this is cause for alarm. For one thing, there has never been a stable climate system. For another, the level of CO2 in our atmosphere is near its historic low. In the long run, the greatest danger is too little rather than too much CO2. There has been a long-term reduction of CO2 throughout the 4.5-billion-year history of the Earth. If this tendency continues, eventually our planet may become as lifeless as Mars.

Glaciation has prevailed for 90% of the last several million years. Extreme cold. Biting cold. Cold too intense for bikinis and swimming trunks. No matter what scary scenarios global-warming enthusiasts dream up, they pale in comparison with the conditions another ice age would deliver. Look to our past climate. Fifteen thousand years ago, an ice sheet a kilometer and a half thick covered all of North America north of a line stretching from somewhere around Seattle to Cleveland and New York City.

Instead of reducing CO2, we should, perhaps, be increasing it. We should pay the smokestack industries hard dollars for every kilogram of soot they pump into the atmosphere. Instead of urging Chinese to stop using coal and turn instead to nuclear-generated electricity, we should beg them to continue using coal. Rather than bringing us to the edge of global-warming catastrophe, anthropogenic climate change may have spared us descent into what would be the most serious and far-reaching challenge facing humankind in the 21st century - dealing with a rapidly deteriorating climate that wants to plunge us into an ice age. Let's hope Antarctica and Greenland melt. Let's hope the sea levels rise. All life glorifies warmth. Only death prefers the icy fingers of endless winter.

What do you think?

Derek Kelly, who has been an American university teacher and a computer-software developer, is now trying to help Chinese university students speak English.

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Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

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