True or False: The major greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is carbon dioxide (CO2).
False: It is water vapour. Good old H2O is by far the major heat sink in our atmosphere.
First of all let me establish that I am not a climate specialist. I am however a doctor who graduated cum laude from Dalhousie Medical School. I also have a considerable number of undergraduate chemistry, biology and physics courses under my belt.
I am not trying to impress anyone, but just establish that I might be bright enough to figure out when I am being misinformed by those who should know better. I therefore did some of my own research on “global warming.”
I promise not to bore you with minute details and I have no connection with the oil industry or any special interest groups. But there are people out there who are receiving money and grants to say things that just ain’t so:
Fact 1: The earth has been ice-free most of the time over its billions of years existence. No ice caps (except maybe at Tim Horton’s).That’s why there are fossils of tropical plants in Antarctica.
Fact 2: Right now we are in the middle of an ice age (yes, you heard me right) called the Quaternary Glaciation which has been going on for about two-and-a-half million years. During most of that time period Canada had been covered in several kilometers of ice. Fourteen thousand years ago, a blink in geological time, Ontario, including the Niagara Peninsula was covered in solid ice. Even 7000 years ago northern Ontario was covered in ice (I mean all year, not just for ten months.) Look at the maps I snatched from Wikipedia, below (consider yourselves credited, Wiki.)
Fact 3: Generally every 100,000 years during our current ice age there have been brief interglacial periods usually lasting about 10,000 years after which ice moves in for another 90,000 years.
Guess what boys and girls, we are currently 11,700 years into the current interglacial! If your math isn’t that good this means the ice should have come rolling back into the greater Toronto area at about the time of the height of the Roman Empire. Imagine what that will do to real estate values in Etibicoke.
Fact 4: The north polar/Greenland and Antarctic ice masses are not at all typical in earth’s history. They are the result of the current ice age (Quaternary Glaciation) which is still going on and should do so for another few million years. Ice should have already re-expanded to cover most of Canada and Northern Europe and Asia except for, hold on for this, climate change.
Fact 5: Carbon dioxide is only one of several greenhouse gases, a gas that holds heat radiated into our atmosphere. Increased levels of CO2 do seem to make things a bit warmer and for millennia humans have been churning out a fair amount of greenhouse gases (also including methane from our cattle herds and possibly a few humans we know but would prefer not to).
Water vapour is by far the most common greenhouse gas. That’s why it gets cold so quickly at night in dry deserts and not in the humid tropics. Nobody has been stupid enough to try and ban water vapour from going into the atmosphere (at least not yet). That would surely put an end to your afternoon tea, not to mention hot showers. Banning methane emissions would be, let’s just say, painful.
Fact 6: All this carbon dioxide, tea-steeping and flatulence seems to have so far prevented us from going into another full-fledged glacial period. However we don’t know for how long. If the ice does move down again it will likely be the Mexicans building a wall to keep us out, just FYI.
Fact 7: When you look at the fancy charts the so-called global warming experts use remember that these are the equivalent of trying to use the one hour trends in the Toronto Stock Exchange to predict where the market will be in ten years. Totally useless but could be helpful in manipulating people who don’t understand the context, such us poor dumb taxpayers.
During the period 1645–1715, we had what was called the Little Ice Age. That’s why there all those old paintings of the Dutch skating on their canals wearing the European equivalent of parkas. Nowadays they would be swimming if they tried this in the winter. This brief freezing period was triggered by a sunspot cycle called the Maunder Minimum (okay I promised no technical words but this term flows so nicely.) These MM’s come pretty regularly so keep those skates sharp and brush up on our igloo building skills.
The fact is that, yes, global climate change is real. The climate has always been changing and we don’t live long enough to observe anything other than micro-trends which are of little significance. Climate change is likely influenced to some extent by CO2 emissions. If we are overdue for another ice age this may not be a bad thing. To be putting taxes on CO2 makes no sense when we don’t even know if we are hovering on the brink of a new glacial period (global disaster) or a premature return to the usual state of the planet, minus polar caps and with substantially reduced coastlines (also a global disaster.)
In the meantime there are a lot people out there trying to fill governments coffers or make their careers feeding misinformation to the common folk…and precious few who are really informing the public of the truth.
If doubtful, just look up Quaternary Ice age on Wikipedia if you want more information, or maybe ask your high school science teacher if these are indeed facts. Just don’t ask anyone who gets paid for his or her opinion, including tax hungry politicos and people who get big grants to churn out this…hmmm…global warming BS. Climate change is a reality and always has been. I am not a (horrors, burn him or her at the stake), “climate change denier.”
What I am saying is that we don’t know nearly enough about climate change to make any sensible decisions. In a few hundred years our coastlines may be submerged in water or our country buried in 4 kilometers of ice. Nobody really knows.
Take your pick.
Glacial Lakes – Wikipedia creative commons
Walmart parking lot January – by Stella Burden-van der Lugt, All Rights Reserved