Learn how plants respond to higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations

How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

Click to locate material archived on our website by topic


Sound the Alarm Bells!
Volume 4, Number 5: 31 January 2001

At 9:56 Eastern Standard Time on the morning of 22 January, a Reuters news report entitled "UN Sees Faster Global Warming, Humanity Responsible" flashed across the internet. Based on its author's reading of a draft summary for policy makers, the report said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was projecting a new-and-improved, i.e., larger, mean global warming of 1.4 to 5.8C by 2100. And it quoted Klaus Toepfer - head of the United Nations Environment Program - as stating that this most recent climate prediction "should sound alarm bells in every national capital and in every local community."

We suggest the new prediction should sound some other vastly-more-important alarm bells, like those that are supposed to go off in every thinking person's head when he or she hears something that just doesn't make sense, and especially when the dire message asserts we must dramatically curtail the burning of the coal, gas and oil that power the engines of industry and supply us with the electricity upon which we all depend for innumerable necessities and conveniences. (Think California for the most recent manifestation of the insanity of what these UN types are prodding us to do.)

So what's the problem with the UN predictions? For starters, consider the degree of warming political opportunists have most frequently flaunted in the aftermath of the UN announcement: 5.8C, or in the non-metric parlance of the average US citizen, "over ten degrees Fahrenheit." How significant is that temperature differential? Well, it's about the difference that exists between the mean temperature of an ice age and an interglacial. And over the entire history of the Pleistocene, i.e., the past two million years of alternating frigid and benign climatic epochs, mean global air temperature has never - that's right, never - risen that much above an interglacial baseline such as the one that currently prevails.

Shouldn't that fact sound an alarm bell somewhere in the recesses of your mind? Doesn't it sound just a little far-fetched? If you answer yes, congratulations; you've somehow managed to retain your common sense in an increasingly nonsensical world, where self-proclaimed prophets of doom can make the most ridiculous predictions and still be considered rational human beings, with some of them garnering even reverential respect.

But how can you be sure that we are not the ones who are pulling the wool over your brains? For one thing, if something's never happened before, it probably never will happen. Now, mind you, we're not saying that it can't occur, only that the probability of its occurring is very small. Clearly, however, you'd like a little more than just this simple rule of thumb on which to hang your considered opinion, so we will briefly review a couple of items from the 11 January issue of Nature that come to bear upon the subject, which articles appeared eleven days prior to the announcement of the unprecedented warming of the globe predicted by the political functionaries of the United Nations, and which (had they bothered to read the articles) should have given them pause to consider the silliness of their contention.

In the first of the articles, Ganopolski and Rahmstorf (2001) review the well-established fact that "glacial climate is much more variable than Holocene climate," which is the interglacial climate in which we now live; and they present an interesting stability analysis that provides an explanation for this fact. They also note that although warmings of the magnitude predicted by the IPCC have indeed occurred in the past, they have all occurred during glacial times. And they note that a smaller but very persistent climatic oscillation having a period of approximately 1500 years is much more evident during glacial times than it is during interglacials, when climate changes are less extreme and weather variability more subdued.

In the second article, Hall and Stouffer (2001) use a conventional climate model to produce a 15,000-year simulation of earth's recurring weather patterns under present-day climatic conditions in the absence of any external perturbations. They report that about 3100 years into the simulation, the average annual air temperature near southern Greenland spontaneously fell as much as ten standard deviations below its long-term mean value and remained there for a period of nearly forty years.

This significant cooling event was produced by an anomalously persistent wind that transported large amounts of buoyant cold and fresh water into the northern North Atlantic Ocean, slowing deep water formation there and concentrating the entire cooling of the northern North Atlantic in the uppermost ocean layer, which therefore became uncharacteristically cold. The authors further note that "nearly all coupled ocean-atmosphere models show an increase in atmospheric fresh water transport to the Arctic ... when atmospheric CO2 is doubled," and they thus state that "because the mechanism for the extreme [cooling] event relies on fresh water transport out of the Arctic, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations could make a similar [cooling] event more likely."

Carefully note what Hall and Stouffer are saying. Any CO2-induced warming of our current climate will likely trigger a subsequent cooling. And the work of Ganopolski and Rahmstorf suggests that this cooling would likely be followed by the warming influence that is known to faithfully maintain the integrity of interglacials. Hence, it would appear that earth's climate system, especially in the "early warning" Arctic region, has a built-in thermostat that does not allow air temperatures there - nor anywhere else on the planet - to rise and remain more than a degree or two higher than they are now for any significant period of time. And that means the UN's prediction of impending unprecedented hot times is nothing more than a lot of unprecedented hot air.

In conclusion, we too would say the climatic rantings and ravings of the UN/IPCC crowd should indeed ring alarm bells in every national capital and local community; but they should be bells that warn of the climatic chicanery being used to coerce the nations of the world into adopting wrong-headed energy policies that do not square with what we know about the workings of nature. In the words of Tennyson, they should be bells that "ring out the false; ring in the true." And since the false is currently deeply entrenched in so many national and local governments, the bells of truth must ring out long and loud.

Dr. Craig D. Idso
President
Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President

References
Ganopolski, A. and Rahmstorf, S. 2001. Rapid changes of glacial climate simulated in a coupled climate model. Nature 409: 153-158.

Hall, A. and Stouffer, R.J. 2001. An abrupt climate event in a coupled ocean-atmosphere simulation without external forcing. Nature 409: 171-174.