Monday, March 9, 2009

Climate Change

I know, I started a blog to review stuff, then occasionally write about completely different stuff. Humor me.

Anyway, a major issue in politics and the media is global warming, or global climate change if you really want to be politically correct. And if you get all your information solely from what people on the TV tell you, you either think climate change is a fact and we all have to get those little swirly light bulbs or the earth will explode. Or perhaps you're aware that there's a debate, but you think that the two sides are enlightened scientists with their facts and numbers assuring us that climate change is the result of human activities versus religious nutjobs who deny climate change entirely.

But is it really that simple?

In one sense, the facts don't lie. Average global temperatures have indeed increased since the 1800's, when people started to keep detailed records. But consider also, that we're talking about temperatures over a span of 100-200 years... a mere moment to our 4 billion year old planet. And when we look back over thousands or millions of years, there's evidence of plenty of climate change. We have evidence that the Earth was actually warmer than it is now during the time of the dinosaurs. And we also have evidence of at least four major ice ages, the most recent about 20,000 years ago. Clearly, the Earth has gone through periods of heating and cooling before the rise of mankind, and long before the Industrial Revolution.

Indeed, while we've seen an overall trend in warming over the last 100+ years, it's worth noting that global temperatures actually dropped in 2007, then again in 2008. In the past month, I've heard both that global warming is going to be way worse than we though, and that the global warming trend is slowing.

Now, consider this: the famous Great Red Spot on Jupiter is shrinking. Nearby, a second red spot is growing, and it might actually become larger than the original. Apparently, Jupiter is also going through a period of climate change. I think it's safe to say that mankind can't be blamed for that one.

Mankind's effect on the global climate here on Earth is debatable. I've already mentioned that the earth has gone through periods of warming and cooling. We all learned in school that the four seasons on Earth are caused by the fact that the Earth is tilted in relation to the sun. If you imagine a flat surface radiating out from the Sun's equator (called the ecliptic), and a physical pole running from the Earth's north pole right through its south pole, that pole would currently be tilted about 23.4 degrees from the ecliptic. As the Earth rotates, it wobbles like a top that's starting to slow down. The Earth's title relative to the ecliptic ranges from about 22 degrees to 24.5 degrees in a phenomenon known as obliquity. Obliquity relates to another phenomenon known as procession. Procession is a combination of obliquity and the Earth's movement around the Sun and considers how much the Earth is tilted towards or away from the face of the Sun.

One other important factor in the Earth's motion is eccentricity. By now, I should think that anyone reading this knows that the Earth revolves around the sun. Most of you also probably know that the Earth's orbit around the sun isn't a perfect circle, but actually an ellipse. Eccentricity describes how far away the ellipse is from being a perfect circle. What you probably don't know is that the eccentricity of Earth's orbit is not constant. When given numerical values, Earth's eccentricity ranges from a nearly circular 0.005 to a high of 0.058.

Lastly, the Earth doesn't just fly in a simple loop around the sun like NASCAR drivers around a track. The Earth actually drifts up and down relative to the ecliptic, like a horse on a merry-go-round. This phenomenon is known as orbital inclination.

The period of time between maximum and minimum values for obliquity, procession, eccentricity, and inclination can be estimated and predicted. And scientists have noted some evidence of connections between these mechanics and periods of climate change on Earth.

This isn't to say that mankind is or isn't responsible for the warming trend, but I would suggest that mankind may not be the sole factor. So this begs the question: what do we do about global climate change? The Kyoto treaty has been estimated to cost the U.S. as much as 20% of our entire GDP. If human activities are only part of the cause, what do we expect to achieve with Kyoto? Indeed, any benefits from Kyoto are further mitigated by the fact that Kyoto has exemptions for "developing" countries like China and India.

Global Warming might not even be all that bad. Statistically, people get sick less in the winter. A shorter, warmer winter also means less heart attacks and muscle injuries from shoveling snow, less injuries from falls on icy surfaces, and less automobile accidents from poor road conditions. Also, warmer weather would mean more usable land, longer growing seasons, and more crops. Global warming could actually be an ally in the fight to end world hunger.

At the end of the day, I'm not saying that we can't or shouldn't be a little more green. We all want clean land, clean air, and clean water. Making an effort to use less electricity isn't just good for the environment, it can save you money. And investing in alternative fuels will help break our dependence on foreign oil as much as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But I am suggesting that the global warming hysteria has to stop. The alarmism is used by scientists to get more money from governments, and it's used to scare up votes for politicians promising to do something about it. We're not all going to die in 10 years. We don't need to (further) wreck our economy over it, and we certainly don't need to strap machines on cows in an effort to keep their farts out of the atmosphere.

3 comments:

eyoon said...

Interesting read. I would debate your premise that combating global warming equals harm to our GDP. In both Japan and in many European countries, green industries actually fuel growth.

In the United States, green manufacturing jobs in solar and wind are some of the few manufacturing jobs still out there. While installation and home retrofit demand creates jobs locally.

The biggest fallacy pushed in America is that we can survive by becoming a "service" oriented economy. The complete collapse of Iceland and the looming collapse of the UK should act as a big spotlight on that sort of short sightedness. Manufacturing jobs are a critical base to a healthy economy and green jobs in solar and wind can be a great boom to local economies especially in depressed areas like Detroit where there are plenty of people with the know how and experience but without the product.

Alloreshadow said...

the problem is its not just one reason its a bunch yes the extra gases we put into the air and cutting down trees does hurt but the earth also has its on cycles it goes through. so as thinking beings we should be cautious of what we do and try not to destroy what we have. for we do have an impact on the environment around us. just look at all the species of animals we wiped out so far from mass killings.

so really it all comes down to responsibility and the bigger. picture.

these yah-hos that preach its all for one reason is wrong. nothings ever that simple. unfortunately.

Mike said...

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,510937,00.html

An interesting report a friend of mine called my attention to.

The gist of it, for those that don't feel like reading it, is that the climate change hysteria is becoming a pretext for the UN to shift a large portion of the US economy (among others) under UN control.