Oregon heat wave…global warming?

It was 104 the other day in Portland and it will likely be just as hot today, so conversations have been turning to the subject of global warming. How soon everyone forgets our much cooler than average spring with temperatures often ten degrees below normal.

There are four questions concerning global warming:

Is it happening?

It is warmer than it was 150 to 200 years ago. We know this from scientific records and observations. The Columbia River actually froze over for a couple of months in the winter of 1846-7. This was, however during the “˜Little Ice Age’, a period of colder temperatures from about 1400 to 1850, with a period of worldwide glacial expansion beginning in 1850. One of the minima, or coldest periods, was centered around 1850. Prior to the “˜Little Ice Age’ the earth underwent a period of warmer temperatures referred to as the “˜Medieval Warm Period.’ The Vikings took advantage of ice-free seas to colonize Greenland and other outlying lands of the far north. It’s worth noting that Greenland was so named because the Vikings found its southern region green and fertile with temperatures suitable for colonization — as opposed to the frozen waste it is today. Although there are no scientific temperature records from the time, we know from historical writings that it was warmer then than it is now.

Did we cause it?

We have about a thousand years of weather observations and what they tell us, in a nutshell, is that for about 500 years it was “˜warmer’ and that for the next 500 years it was “˜colder’ and now it’s getting “˜warmer’ again. It appears that there is some sort of natural climactic rhythm at work here, but are we contributing to a greater than “˜normal’ increase through the emission of “˜greenhouse gasses’? It is impossible to say. We’ve only engaged in the scientific collection of temperature data in the U.S. for a little over a hundred years, about the same in Great Britain, and considerably less (if at all) in most of the rest of the world. Temperature estimates for the past are theoretical reconstructions. We don’t really know how “˜warm’ it was during the “˜Medieval Warm Period’ or how cold it was during the “˜Little Ice Age.’

Can we do anything about it?

The answer to this question depends on to what degree you believe people are causing global warming or if it even exists. If you believe we are entirely or significantly responsible for global warming, and that global warming is a bad thing, then your answer is that we must cease emitting “˜greenhouse gasses’ immediately. This means not just the U.S., but the entire world. Somehow, I don’t think the developing world is going to go for this. That’s the problem with the Kyoto Treaty. It places strict limits on the U.S. and almost none on the developing world including India and China — likely to be the biggest polluters of the 21st century, if they’re not already. If you believe the global warming arguments are bunk, the question is moot – we should quit tying the hands of business and increasing the expense of consumer goods with useless, idiotic emissions standards and regulations.

Should we do anything about it?

The unfortunate truth about global warming is that we’re a lot like a frog sitting in a pot of water on a stove who doesn’t know whether the stove is turned or not. If there is no global warming, we’re OK, but if there is significant, human caused global warming and the predicted disastrous results, we won’t know until we’re already boiled — maybe. Recent research indicates that when the earth gets warmer, ocean currents may change, bringing about cooling. The earth may self regulate. That millennium long heat and cold cycle we just experienced may just be the earth’s equivalent of your home’s climate control system, but we won’t really know for another thousand years.

Links:
Link 1:
Link 2:

NOTE: Both these pages refer to a “small number” of scientists who believe that evidence of global warming is inconclusive or nonexistent. There are, in fact many. See the following articles:

Link 3:
Link 4:

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 9 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Max

    A major source of “greenhouse gas” is methane, and the number one producer of methane on the planet is….
    termites.

  • I find the topic of global warming particularly interesting, mostly because I just recently finished as “Environmental Politics”. From the research I have seen and the studies I have read, I think most people are in agreement that there is at least some warming. A slightly smaller majority believes that a significant source of this warming is human related. HOWEVER, there is one part of this debate that I never see presented. The same people who claim that by driving my SUV I am warming the earth are also the largest advocates for the flawed theory of evolution. So using their logic, strong species should adapt and mutate to deal with the new higher temperatures. Some species may die out but with all likelihood humans would not be one of them. So thats my two cents. In addition (call this the 3rd cent if you wish) I think we are damm lucky to be able to worry about global warming, if we as a society are advanced and stable enough to worry about a concept as abstract as our effect on the climate 50yrs down the road, that means we are not worrying about where are next meal comes from, or whether warlords are going to kill us. Do you honestly think the people in Sudan are worried about global warming at the moment?

    So all in all, we see a classic example of left wing double talk, saying that apparently evolution does not apply here. And we see that we can only worry about this concept because we are the greatest, most free, most advanced civilization that this planet has ever seen.

  • JHL

    “Listen, I recognize that the surface of the Earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem.”
    -George W Bush, June 2005

    Well… seems that we have a consensus on the first two questions.

  • Don Smith

    With George Bush acknowledging anthropogenic global warming, aren’t liberals required to denounce it?

  • Great observation, Michael. I’ve never seen anyone address that issue either. Could you do a lengthier post about it and let me know when you do? ‘Cause I’d love to see what you come up with … and to see if any lefties bother to try to counter it.

  • There’s another interesting question:

    Are we going to do anything about the equity impacts? That is, should we just externalize all of our costs onto coastal areas, ski areas, agriculture, etc. or should we try to internalize some of those costs by mitigating global climate change?

    Stop the denial, and stop the inane did we contribute to it questions. You’re as bad as the tobacco industry and the Flat Earth society. The other two questions: can and should we do something? are worth talking about.

  • Steven Plunk

    It seems, according to some, we should turn over the world’s economic potential to scientists who base their theories on Mann’s hockey stick graph. And of course Mann and his colleagues won’t release all of their data for peer review. Not very smart in my opinion.

    When someone calls sceptics “as bad as the tobacco industry and the Flat Earth society” I immediately realize they are trying to stifle discussion and dismiss other points of view. That is contrary to the spirit of scientific discovery. Sceptics should be embraced and alternate hypothesis put to the test. Global warming science is ignoring the last 1000 years of history and is calling disbelievers heretics without trial. It stinks. When something smells something is surely rotten.

    Much more scientific work must be done before policy changes should be enacted. In a way I feel these scientists are like used car salesmen trying to make the sale quickly. “Buy our theory now because tomorrow will be too late”. Thank you, no, rushing things only makes the odds of a tremendous mistake more likely.

    Science has been corrupted by the grant process and tenure process. Not to mention PhD. candidates who face pressures to come up with something new in each years batch of thesis submitted. This is no way to reach the truth, it is way to create junk science for popular consumption that makes society sick.

  • *Steven Plunk:* Science has been corrupted by the grant process and tenure process. Not to mention PhD. candidates who face pressures to come up with something new in each years batch of thesis submitted. This is no way to reach the truth, it is way to create junk science for popular consumption that makes society sick.
    *JK:* Its far worse than that. Some are intentionally deceiving us. This quote form one climate scientist who is the editor of a peer reviewed climate journal (bold added):
    Stephen Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research described the scientists’ dilemma this way: “On the one hand, as scientists, we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but-which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but; human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. *So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might. have. *This `double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.” DISCOVER OCTOBER 1989, Page 47

    thanks
    JK

  • Kgh

    I think a bigger question, given the weight being given to this issue in the popular media, is why isn’t the very thoughtful discussion above found anywhere on TV or in the newspapers. We are truly being disserved by these entities if they avoid these challenges to the prevailing orthodoxy. In fact, it would be news if the media did allow this to happen. Perhaps are true Darwinistic struggle is being played out in the form of our own society’s ability to disseminate information and make wise decisions. Far too often I run into fairly intelligent, well-educated people who, without any facts or sense of climatic history, emphatically believe in human-caused global warming and are prepared to support candidates and policies to fight it. I’ve been to Wales on a typical summer day so cold and windy that you’d think it was November – only to learn that the Romans grew grapes and made wine there 2000 years ago. I’ve been to Monterey Bay and learned that the Spanish explorer who discovered 400 years ago it did so while it was covered in a thick blanket of snow – something unimaginable for part of the central California coast in more recent times. If we can’t find away to defeat this media problem, the next President/Congress may well euthanize our economy in the process. You can bet that India and China won’t euthanize their economies. I challenge everyone to think of what can we do about this media problem?

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