Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, December 15, 2006

Global Warming ... Or New Ice Age

Too bad the debate over global warming is all over so we can't pay attention to articles like this one, by Pierre Jutras is an associate professor of geology at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada.

He says it's more likely we're in an ice age than a greenhouse age. I'll just excerpt a portion from oeach of the primary points he makes.

Carbon dioxide has been given a bad rap. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol identified carbon dioxide emissions and their effect on global climate as the main environmental threat to tackle. Environmental activists, such as Greenpeace, are also putting most of their energy into defeating the same beast. From a geologist's perspective, however, this could be seen as an interesting paradox. To help explain, here are a few common misconceptions about carbon dioxide and global warming.

1. Carbon dioxide is a pollutant. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is, in fact, the "greenest" gas in our atmosphere, and the most essential ingredient for life itself.

2. A lot of the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere originally came from fossil fuels. This is also not true. All the carbon that is stored in fossil fuels originally came from the atmosphere and hydrosphere before being stored in organic tissues and carbonate rocks.

3. High atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are bad for ecosystems. Carbon dioxide levels have been continuously fluctuating, causing alternating periods of global warming (greenhouse ages) and global cooling (ice ages). During greenhouse ages, which are characterized by carbon dioxide levels several times higher than today's, life goes through tremendous expansion and diversification, whereas periods of low carbon dioxide levels, such as today's, are affected by severe extinctions.

4. Global warming will force deserts to increase in size. The geological record says otherwise, as greenhouse ages are characterized by an absence or quasi-absence of desertic conditions, which are a feature of ice ages.

5. Global warming will cause hurricanes and other atmospheric turbulences to increase in energy and frequency. Because hurricanes are caused by steep gradients in atmospheric pressure, and therefore temperature, this is very unlikely.

6. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have never been so high. In fact, on a geological time scale, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have hardly ever been so low, and ecosystems are suffering greatly because of that.

7. We are now in a period of global warming. This is only true on a short time scale, such as the past 500 years or so. It is already not true at the scale of 5,000 years, when Earth's climate was considerably warmer, and it is certainly not true at the scale of five million years, which takes us out of the current ice age.

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