"Palos Verdes Resident since 1947"

Global Warming (thru the ages)

I originally wrote this in early 2009 but, sad to say, it still applies:

I hate to waste time on this, but since it’s currently fashionable to believe that man is causing global warming, I just can’t help putting it to the “historical perspective” test. I am no scientist, and I’m not even going to get into the vested interests of a whole bunch of people who are riding the government gravy train “studying” this.  All that aside, it fails the common sense test on several levels.  There seem to be a lot of people who just take it as received wisdom without thinking about it — same process that would lead one to fall for impossible promises by politicians, I suppose . . . probably many of the same people . . . but I digress.  There is probably enough hot air on the subject coming out of Al Gore and those “experts” in Hollywood to have a measurable effect on the climate.

The whole thing reminds me of the Duke Lacrosse affair. The police zero in on the suspects, basically exclude all others, and find every piece of evidence that they did it. CO2 contributes to Global Warming, human activity emits CO2, ergo, man is responsible for Global Warming.

Straying into the science end of it about as far as I dare, it seems to me that the mistake the proponents of man-caused global warming are making (either honestly or because they figure they can slip it past most of us) is that the effect of carbon particulates emitted into the atmosphere is a logarithmic one; in other words (and this is just an example), if the amount of CO2 emitted doubled, the effect upon temperature might be 1/10th of 1%.  Absent an understanding of this relationship, the average person would likely assume far more dire consequences.

But forget all that.  As everyone knows, the Earth has warmed and cooled many times since at least 18,000 years ago. Take the Ice Age (please):  had the Earth not warmed, thus ending the Ice Age, we’d still be in it.  I know a lot of young people these days think history began the day they were born, so I should probably point out that the “carbon footprint” of human beings was pretty minimal 18,000 years ago.  They were, along with other living things, breathing out (gasp) CO2, which I am sure comes as a shock to the Global Warming adherents; and there were, of course, those nasty fires used to barbecue Mastadon steaks and keep sabre tooth tigers away.  And I’m sure Fred and Wilma were not as diligent as they might have been getting the Flintmobile smog checked — they just took it for . . . granite.
 
Still with me after that one?
If anyone can help me understand how humans caused the end of the Ice Age, I’m listening.  If not, must it not have been caused by something other than human activity?  I mean, we have two choices here: human or not human (same choices we have with Al Gore).  Maybe there are banner headlines chisled on stone tablets yet to be discovered screaming “Glaciers Retreat — Lake Michigan Revealed!” with the sub-head: “Campfires and Baked Beans Banned”.
Warming/cooling cycles seem to occur about every 1000 years, and the mechanisms that cause them are far from perfectly understood.  The most recent cooling cycle began around 1100 AD, and is known today as the Little Ice Age.  If William the Conqueror had understood this better, he might have waited to walk across the Channel.  Temperatures reached their nadir in the 16th and 17th Centuries.  Crops failed and wild animals invaded cities looking for food, including rats carrying Bubonic Plague.  Even the Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus couldn’t stand it, fired up their army and navy, put on the sunscreen and headed south, invading relatively toasty Europe.  You will notice that I’m skipping all the cycles between 18,000 years ago and 1100 AD.  If anyone has compelling evidence that humans caused any of the warming or cooling cycles in between, I’m sure the world would love to hear it.
 
So the cool period (and it was really a cool period — a bunch of lovely castles were built, you had the Renaissance — too cold for Da Vinci to go outside so he had to stay in painting and inventing — you had all them neat little wars in Europe, Stradivari and Guarnieri unwittingly benefitting from centuries of cold weather in northern Italy that produced very dense wood that is now thought to account for the wonderful sound of their stringed instruments) . . . anyway, so the cool period that began around 1100 began turning around about 1850. Now, does anyone want to make the case that the Industrial Revolution had been spewing out pollution prior to 1850 on a scale sufficient to cause the onset of Global Warming? I’m listening.
 
You will notice, just based upon the cyclical evidence, that we’re pretty close to the end of this warming cycle.  This is why Al Gore rushed his book into print — so he could take credit for Global Cooling if it’s inevitable onset should happen to begin during his lifetime.
 
So I’m done with Global Warming just on that level.  But, as an amateur historian, I have another problem with it. Throughout history, science has always thought they had more answers than, as it turned out, they actually did.  There are too many examples to cite, but you couldn’t have convinced Ptolemy that the Earth was not the center of the Universe and was not flat; Bubonic Plague was caused by “bad air” don’tchya know; the crossbow was such a terrible weapon that it would certainly end warfare; for over a thousand years “bloodletting” was standard medical treatment for all sorts of stuff; witches were blamed for all sorts of bad stuff whenever convenient; in the 19th Century travel faster than 30 mph would result in death and man would never fly; and the Maxim Gun (forerunner of the machine gun) would end warfare, since the crossbow, the arquebus, wheelock, and flintlock hadn’t; and airplanes will never be able to sink capital ships . . . OK, only when they’re anchored . . . at least until 12/10/41 when the Japanese proved otherwise off Malaysia . . . OK fine, capital ships don’t stand a chance against airplanes; and the director of the US Patent Office famously recommended about 1900 that his office be abolished as everything that could be invented had been.
 
The point is that, at any point in human history, science is more advanced than at any time in the recorded past.  I say “recorded” because a lot of stuff was lost from about 50 BC thru the Barbarian Invasions (it would have helped if Caesar hadn’t burned the Library of Alexandria (thus creating more carbon emissions), but war is hell (that was W T Sherman, by the way, not Patton) — rumor has it that Caesar had overdue books and big fines).  There is, therefore, a natural tendency to think that we have more stuff figured out than, as we find out later, we actually did.  After all, in 1855 the naval Parrott rifle is about as good as it gets, and them silly Romans were hurling stones!  I’m sure the Europeans were happy when Columbus discovered that China was much closer than previously thought . . . but them “Chinese” didn’t dress like Marco Polo’s drawings, there wasn’t a single Take-out, and the crew still had to do their own laundry.  Obviously Columbus was Khanned. I got hundreds of ’em.  I’ll be here all week.
 
Given the Earth’s history of warming and cooling continually over the past 18,000 or so years (at least), and given the unwarranted hubris of science thru the ages, what kind of arrogance must we now have to believe that we are suddenly the cause of something that has gone on since, oh I don’t know, God said “Let there be light”?  Let’s even agree that CO2 emissions cause Global Warming.  CO2 is emitted from all sorts of things and has been since the Big Bang.
 
So what? What’s the harm in reducing our “carbon footprint”, you may say.  Well, if you don’t mind a serious reduction in your standard of living while we chase imaginary solutions to insoluable “problems” that have been around since Adam & Eve, while Third World countries, not yet sufficiently self-absorbed and comfy that they can afford to cut their emissions (that would be China), spew out everything imaginable, I don’t suppose there’s any harm.  Let jobs continue to be lost to China, with its lower production costs helped out by factories burning whatever makes the most economic sense; we can sit in our cave, smugly superior in the knowledge that we are better (albeit Stone Age) people.
 
Me?  I’m going into the overcoat business.
 

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