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Global Warming: Fact or Fallacy?

Are we headed in this direction?

Are we headed in this direction?

The Polar Icecaps Are Melting

If you watch television enough you will see a commercial depicting Global Warming. It might be a polar bear standing on a remnant of ice with no place to go; it might be a parched desert in need of water. There are many variations of the theme showing viewers that this is a reality, it is happening and it is our fault. Studies have been done, millions of dollars spent to prove this is real and the viewer is left with the thought that unless we turn our world around our future is bleak indeed.

But to every story there is an opposing side, one telling a completely different tale. One that says that the ice caps are fine, even growing. That the temperatures aren't rising, in fact they are falling. That Mankind is not part of the problem associated with the catastrophe known as Global Warming. What is one to believe? Where does the Truth lie?

Enter the words "Global Warming" into your computer and within nanoseconds you will have in excess of 62,000,000 results available for one to peruse at their leisure. "Global Warming Hoax"; "Global Warming 101"; "Global Warming - National Geographic" the list goes on and on. And for every article which states it is real an opposing article can be found saying it is not real.

Let's begin by defining what Global Warming truly is. Basically Global Warming is another name for Climate Change which is an observable phenomenon that includes the rise and fall of the Earth's temperature over a time scale often spanning centuries. So right off the bat we know that the Earth has gone through periods of warming and cooling before. Ice Ages have come and gone, creating land bridges connecting continents together due to the vast amount of water in our oceans being frozen and gathering near the poles, thereby exposing the land hidden beneath the seas. In time, this ice melts and covers these land bridges once more, separating the continents once more.

Likewise, there have been times where those ice caps melt more than other times, releasing more water into the oceans and causing coastal flooding, covering portions of land that had previously been exposed and dry. Again, with time the ice re-formed and the waters withdrew, allowing that land to become exposed once more. This occurs in cycles and the current cycle we are experiencing seems to be one that is creating a higher temperature that is advancing more quickly than previous cycles. The thought is that Man is enhancing, or even causing this rise in the global temperature.

But is he? Is Man really responsible for the rise or simply one of the myriad of reasons the temperature is rising?

The problem that exists is that Man has been able to document these cycles only fairly recently in scientific terms. We have been cognoscente of this phenomenon for a relatively few years when one is speaking in terms of how old the Earth is, relying on conjecture, guesses and theories to know what occurred before recorded history then presenting it as a known fact. The problem with this is that all to often that fact is then found to be incorrect, flawed or simply not founded on firm ground.

Take the Earth is Flat theory. At one time this was believed by the world at large. If one searched far enough one would sail right off the edge of the world into oblivion. Beginning with Greek philosopher Pythagoras in the 6th century B.C. a different theory was taking hold, that of a spherical or round Earth. For the next 2,000 years and beyond this was simply a theory. Various cultures came to know and understand that the Earth was not flat at different times in our history until as recently as the 17th century China finally came on board. Now we know the Earth is not flat but it took a long time to come to grips with that knowledge.

Then we have the Big Bang Theory and no, I am not speaking of the sitcom of the same name. Called "the prevailing cosmological model for the universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large scale evolution", this offers a scientific explanation for how the universe was created. In this theory, the entirety of everything was a single point which exploded and is in an ever increasing expansion radiating outward from that point. This was first postulated in the early 1900's and was accepted as fact for the better part of a century. Now, however, a new theory has superseded this one and it appears as though the universe had no beginning at all, that is has always simply existed.

How can both be true? Either the universe was a single point and exploded or it didn't. And if it was a single point, how did that point come to be? And that is where Science fails in this regard for me, as it cannot be explained. Religion says God created it and subsequently everything occurred from there. This is at least as probable as the Big Bang Theory for it provides a beginning instead of just saying it came from nowhere.

What does this have to do with Global Warming? Just that whoever is deciphering the data can read it however they choose to interpret it. Some scientists are saying the Earth is continuing to rise in temperature while others say it is cooling. it can't be both, yet it is being told to us that it is.

One study says the Polar Ice Caps are melting yet another study says they are gaining ice. In Antarctica, it appears as though the Western portion is losing while the Eastern is gaining and is gaining enough to offset the loss on the Western side. And while the Antarctic is gaining ice the Arctic is losing it, and at a rate exceeding the gain seen around the South Pole.

But the problem is what is causing this? Is it truly Mankind and his machines? Or is it simply the normal cycle a living entity such as the Earth is continuing to be alive?

For example, we living in the Northern Hemisphere see four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) take place during the months of March, April and May (Spring); June, July and August (Summer); September, October and November (Fall); and December, January and February (Winter). The Earth turns around the Sun, tipping on its axis to create these cycles. In the Southern Hemispheres these seasons are inverted so when we experience Summer people in Australia are experiencing Winter.

So we know and understand the season cycles; we also know and understand other cycles as they pertain to nature. Why is this any different? The Earth has other cycles beyond the four seasons, they just exist on a far vaster scale than a single year and not necessarily on a defined time frame. For example, there have been five definite Ice Ages found to have existed in the Earth's history. Within these five Ice Ages, there have been other less severe yet telling periods where the temperatures varied sufficiently to cause other dramatic changes to the environment. In the vast majority of those, Man wasn't even on the horizon so could not have caused these changes. There have been floods and droughts, heavy snow and rain at times and virtually none at other times. Temperatures have fluctuated widely before we came along and will after we are gone.

So how can we with any certainty say we are THE cause for what is currently taking place? I have no doubt that we may be adding to the cause but we are not the cause; the Earth has gone through this before without our help.

So is there a calamity known as Global Warming? Ultimately, yes. But one group of data shows that it might be over and we could be entering a cooler period. And if one person who is studying this is correct, we might be in for another problem, one that will affect millions of lives here in the United States.

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Earthquakes. If we are entering into a cooler period as this researcher states we could see an escalation in earth tectonics resulting in massive earthquakes and volcanic activity. According to him, the last period similar to this one was just over 200 years ago; if you know your history you would know that this was when the New Madrid Earthquakes took place. John Casey, former NASA consultant and Space Shuttle engineer has called this a solar activity issue which will result in a cool period for the Earth. According to his studies, the Earth has already lost ground in the temperature arena, down for the past decade. And this is where I have a problem: one set of scientists say the Earth is warming over the past decade; another says it is cooling. Both cannot be true, yet each says they are right.

Casey is not alone in his thoughts. Russian astrophysicist Habibullo Abdussamatov agrees that the Earth is cooling and goes so far as to say we are entering a new mini-ice age. Whereas the scientists who are saying the Earth is continuing to warm due to CO2 levels and greenhouse gases the other scientists are attributing the Earth's cycles more to the Sun and its Solar Cycles containing sun spots.

Did you know?

Antonio Stradivari and his family of violin makers produced what is said to be the finest sounding violins ever made. As Antonio lived during the Maunder Minimum he utilized materials which grew during this cold period and it is theorized that due to this unique combination of man and weather no one can duplicate the singular sound of a Strad. The material was denser for having a much slower growth during the Little Ice Age and this is said to be the reason for the unique sound of a Stradivarius. Experts have tried and failed using modern materials and equipment to capture this moment in time.

Have you ever heard of the Maunder Minimum? This was a period of minimal sunspot activity which took place during the 1600 and 1700's. Sunspots were rare during this time and the temperature of the Earth cooled noticeably, to the point this period is known as the "Little Ice Age". In addition, there were significant volcanic eruptions which provided large amounts of ash to the upper atmosphere which reflected what heat there was from the Sun, exacerbating the situation.

Some are saying we are entering into another minimum today. And if you look at the records it appears to be so. So the possibility exists that yes we are having a Global Warming event even as we are entering a cooler period in our Earth's history. I liken it to turning on the air conditioning and the furnace at the same time. Some areas could see cooler seasons, other warmer. After all, the Earth is not a dead thing, it is a living breathing entity that we parasitically live upon. And while we can and do influence this entity in some manners we are not the large effects that other phenomena are, namely the Sun. If the Sun goes cold, we will as well and all the greenhouse gasses we create won't amount to a hill of beans when compared to the energy lost from the Sun.


Doc Snow from Camden, South Carolina on February 05, 2018:

Charles, in my opinion, that's a very sensible comment. Rate of change is a huge issue, just as you say--and it's not one working in humanity's favor here.

You raise an interesting point about Arctic sea ice. I've written several Hubs about that, and it's unquestionably true that the decline in Arctic ice is real, persistent and ongoing. Even by several years ago, the really thick multiyear ice was pretty much gone, and there has been no meaningful recovery. At the annual fall minimum extent, the volume of ice these days is only about 20% of what it was at the beginning of the satellite era of ice measurement, back in 1979. Here's one of my Hubs on the matter--it's from 2013, but has a lot of detail on the measurement of sea ice. It's also unusual in some--hopefully good--ways:

But the interesting thing I was getting to was the fact that it's actually the *winter* Arctic that is heating up drastically. In the central Arctic, over the sea ice, temperatures are 'clamped' pretty tightly by the ice and by the ocean during the summer. Melting ice takes a lot of energy, so there's a lot of 'inertia' when warmer air and sun try to take temperatures very far above freezing!

But during the winter months, that factor is not in play; the 'warmer' temperatures are still below the freezing point. I've seen some folks in denial about climate change argue that that doesn't matter then--if you aren't melting ice, then it's all the same.

That's wrong, of course, because the winter is the time for the sea ice to reform--and the colder the environment, the faster (and thicker) the ice will form.

The Danish met service has a very nice feature on this, where they give you a time series for the area north of (IIRC) 80 degrees for the year--and you can look at archived years back several decades. Compare just a few recent years with years from more than a couple of decades back, and the change is quite evident.

Electro-Denizen from UK on February 04, 2018:

Doc Snow - "What puzzles me about that is that so many people seem to take that uncertainty as excuse to avoid action". My thoughts entirely.

One thing lacking in the discussion on this page, I think, is the *rate of change*. In the past, there were vast swings, but these tended to happen over extremely long periods of time, whether it was CO2 accumulation of the atmosphere or something else. The rate of acceleration is the key here, I think. Creatures need time to adapt, including humans.

As to the ice, website like allows you to inspect ice by extent, volume etc. I'm not sure how people who think we're going into an ice age due to the Maunder minimum, can square the facts of ice loss with their intellectual inclinations. Global warming denialists keep posting satellite photos of ice coverage across the Arctic this winter, without taking any notice at all of ice thickness - or the fact that it iced up quite late.

The truth, is that on average ice thickness is nearly at the year old point now; that is to say, old pack ice of several years is gone. Over the summer there were temperatures across the arctic way beyond the extremes we experienced elsewhere (20 deg C above average at one point!). As the ice melts, the more open water there is, the more solar radiation is absorbed, the less the ice can reform. In fact, even as I write this, an unusual warm front is moving up into the arctic, which is unusual at this time of year.

It's all a bit crazy really. At a basic level, it's obvious that something fairly abrupt is happening to the climate, but some people still deny it. Then some people accept this to be true, but think it's got nothing to do with CO2 or Methane, but sun cycles exclusively - as if humans can't possibly affect the very thin layer of gases above our heads...

Like any complex subject, it requires so much reading and study, who has the time? This is why it's important to find trustworthy sources, and read articles by people who work in the arctic. Dismissing the scientists is not really the way forward. There is this growing trend though, everywhere, where expert opinion doesn't matter - the people want the truth! Or at least, what they want to hear...

Interesting hub. Have a great day!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 17, 2016:

No one can convince me the earth is cooling. It's been getting hotter, sooner here in Florida, each year. We are already experiencing temperatures in the mid to upper 90s, with feel-like temps of 100 and up.

While much of global warming may be cyclical, the gaseous poisons we've been emitting into the atmosphere for decades have resulted in a weakening of the ozone layer. This , in turn has opened up the protective layer between our atmosphere and the sun, creating intense and damaging heat. It's evident all over the world.

As far as I'm concerned, Man's contribution to global warming is irrefutable.

Doc Snow from Camden, South Carolina on May 25, 2016:

Again, thanks for very kind words. There's more going on to mitigate carbon emissions than most people realize--though in my opinion, it's still well short of what needs to happen. Sort of a glass half & half situation--though even that metaphor may be a bit on the optimistic side.

Just a random sample of some of the 'action', though:

Cleantechnica isn't the only source, just a very convenient one. (And I have to say that the quality of the articles is quite variable.) But if you have limited time to put into following what I've called the "Renewable Revolution" and pretty much everything to do with carbon mitigation, you certainly could do worse.

Mr Archer (author) from Missouri on May 25, 2016:

While I have a "feeling", you obviously have researched this topic extremely thoroughly. A 5 degrees C raise in temperature would be catastrophic for our life forms on the planet. It reminds me a bit of the film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, where the asteroid belt has caught fire and the earth is heating up drastically. Action was needed, and taken. Here, so many different scenarios are presented yet so little action taken that we may well end up in dire straits. Thank you for presenting your information so well; it is truly appreciated.

Doc Snow from Camden, South Carolina on May 25, 2016:

Thanks for your kind words, Mr. Archer.

You say "I tend to believe that the Earth has gone through stages like this before without our help and will do so again."

And you are correct--climate has always changed. Let's look at recent cycles. For the last several million years, Earth has been in a low-CO2 state, resulting in a long Ice Age. But it's not uniformly cold; rather, the freeze is punctuated by repeated 'interglacials'. Here's what it looks like, as reconstructed for the last 420,000 years from an Antarctic ice core:

Turns out that they are initiated by natural orbital changes called Milankovitch Cycles. The main ones have periodicities of about 40,000 and 100,000 years, so their effects recur in differing combinations over time. But the sequence of events is like this. An initial warming due to the orbital change warms seawater, and since warm water holds less CO2, an outgassing from the seas results. This adds to the initial warming. Then glacial ice starts to melt, increasing dark absorptive area on Earth's surface, leading to more warming.

All these 'feedbacks' (and others) reinforce each other, leading over a dozen millennia or so to a much warmer planet. (As the graph shows, the change for the Vostok location is around 10 degrees Celsius--but that is for the high Antarctic; for the planet as a whole it's thought that the change would be closer to 5 degrees C.) But eventually these feedbacks reach their maximum effect, and temperature rise levels off, stabilized by the negative Planck feedback. Then the slow weathering of silicate rocks starts taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, and a very slow cooling sets in.

All that is interesting in a wonkish sort of way, but where the climatic rubber meets the practical road is in the current era, the Holocene. Reconstructed temperature for the last few millennia look like this:

(Sorry for the long URL.)

As you can see, the warm peak of the interglacial we're in now occurred about 8,000 years ago. It's often called the 'Holocene Optimum.' Since then, we've been in the beginning stages of that long, slow, cooling I just mentioned.

But no longer. We've short-circuited the process by our additions of CO2 to the atmosphere, and the result is that we are now actually warmer, probably, than at the height of the Optimum. That would be great, if warming stopped where it is, because then we'd have a nice comfortable planet, and maybe we'd even have prevented the next glaciation from kicking in. (I think we'd all agree that that's a good thing--and some estimates actually suggest that we may have released enough CO2 to have accomplished that.)

But if we keep doing what we are doing, it won't stop there. There's enough carbon in known fossil fuel reserves to raise the planetary temperature by at least 5 degrees C. That's as much of a difference in the warm direction as the glaciation was in the cold direction. And very little of current life is adapted to cope with such conditions.

There are a lot of uncertainties about just what the results might be, but from a warming of that magnitude, it's unlikely that any of them would be good. We know that we can expect more heat waves (duh!), more extreme precipitation, more drought in some places, and we're pretty sure that we'll get fewer but more intense hurricanes and typhoons. Biodiversity is at very serious risk--natural warmings in the deep past have been associated with big extinctions--and agriculture figures to become much more difficult.

But it's hard to know exactly how much, where and just when. What puzzles me about that is that so many people seem to take that uncertainty as excuse to avoid action. That's exactly the opposite of what prudence would dictate in most situations: if you think you could suffer a serious financial loss, you buy insurance; if you think you can't see far enough ahead on the road, you slow down. But with climate policy, it's suddenly "Well, OK, there *could* be danger, but everything will probably be fine."

Mr Archer (author) from Missouri on May 24, 2016:

Oh it exists, just maybe not in the context that we are being told. As I stated I believe it is part of a long term cycle this old Earth has and not something we created. For us to stand on the doorstep and peer through the screen door into the front room, then tell everyone what is in the attic or basement is foolish to say the least, yet that is precisely what some scientists do. Based upon a few "facts" they say what IS, not what is. Thank you and stay safe, RJ.

Ralph Schwartz from Idaho Falls, Idaho on May 24, 2016:

Billions of dollars have been spent on climate modeling, much of it with a pre-disposition that humankind is causing the planet to warm, but reality is that not a single one of those models has been verified to actually predict the weather, either in the short term or the long term.

Short term weather anomalies are the subject of immediate analysis with both sides claiming they are either an endorsement of their point or proof of their oppositions failures.

The raw data from global temperature readings is often smoothed to fit a narrative.

Tell, me how anyone can possibly say that Global Warming exists...

Mr Archer (author) from Missouri on May 24, 2016:

Very well put Sir. You found data I was unaware of and presented it well. My thoughts are that regardless of this trend the question is: is it due specifically to Mankind, partially to Mankind, or completely independent of Mankind? I tend to believe that the Earth has gone through stages like this before without our help and will do so again. We may be assisting the problem but are not THE problem. Therefore Global Warming is a normal part of the environment of the Earth and we will have to adapt to it in order to continue to survive in the manner to which we are accustomed. Change is inevitable on this planet; it is alive and we must adapt to it, not it to us. Thank you and have a wonderful day.

Doc Snow from Camden, South Carolina on May 24, 2016:

I'm afraid it's just not true that:

"...whoever is deciphering the data can read it however they choose to interpret it. Some scientists are saying the Earth is continuing to rise in temperature while others say it is cooling."

No actual climate scientist is claiming that the Earth isn't warming. (Some politicians, pundits and fossil fuel advocates do claim this, but their claims are not based on data.)

The 'big five' temperature records show this since the last big El Nino in 1998:

That's for 1998 to present--most of the period over which some of the 'PP&A' I mentioned above claim there was no warming. Yet all of the five show warming trends, most comparable to the long term trends. And the one outlier showing a smaller trend, the RSS data, has recently been shown to be wrong--uncompensated satellite drift caused a cooling bias to accumulate. A corrected version of that data is pending.

There's no way to spin or 'interpret' this data to claim a cooling trend. The planet is warming, period.

It is possible, of course, that we could see the downward trend is solar output continue, in which case the warming would be offset. However, quantitative estimates calculated by Dr. James Hansen show that under a new Maunder-like minimum the offset would only be partial--your opinion that "all the greenhouse gasses we create won't amount to a hill of beans when compared to the energy lost from the Sun" notwithstanding.

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