The Truth Shall Make You Free (or merely confused)

I would really like to know the truth – or at a minimum the facts – about climate change and endangered polar bears and the world as we know it going to hell in an overheated handbasket.

Is arctic ice still receding or is it now recovering? It seems to depend on who and what you read.

To begin with, there have been reports that sea ice is now at the same level  as 1979. This is apparently misleading, as it speaks to global ice and not specifically to the ice patterns in the arctic.

Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979, as noted in the Daily Tech article. However, observed N. Hemisphere sea ice area is almost one million sq. km below values seen in late 1979 and S. Hemisphere sea ice area is about 0.5 million sq. km above that seen in late 1979, partly offsetting the N. Hemisphere reduction.

So arctic ice hasn’t returned to 1979 levels. In fact the National Snow and Ice Data Centre reports that the average arctic sea ice in December 2008 was 320,000 sq. miles less than the 1979 to 2000 December average, On the positive side it is 54,000 sq.miles larger than it was in December 2007. This compares to the total area covered by some amount of ice of 4.84 million sq. miles.

One year certainly doesn’t make a trend but at least it may slow down the apocalyptic predictions of total disaster.

The volume of Arctic sea ice at the end of last summer was half what it was four years ago and that the Greenland ice sheet lost almost 19bn tonnes of its volume – more than ever before.

“The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the US government’s Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

And Nasa climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”

He added: “The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming. Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.”

A curiosity is the fact that the antarctic ice has been increasing while the arctic ice has been going in the opposite direction.  Intuitively this would make you question the theories and predictions on the decline of  arctic ice, but of course there are theories to support the tie-in.

A study reported on here says:

The findings, published in the March 1 issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, show that although the total ice coverage of the southern ocean has not changed significantly over the last 20 years, the El Niño and its related Southern Oscillation appear to affect regional ice distributions. The oscillation is a recurring warming and cooling of the surface ocean in the central and eastern Pacific. El Niño refers to the warm phase of the oscillation.

“Understanding the connection between the Southern Oscillation and southern ocean climate and the sea ice cover will substantially improve our understanding of global climate,” said Dr. Ron Kwok, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Our study concludes that the southern ocean’s climate and ice cover is somehow connected to climate in the tropical latitudes. While we don’t know yet the cause-and-effect relationship between the two, we do know the changes in sea ice cover cannot be explained by local climate variations alone and are instead linked to larger scale climate phenomena.”

If you say so, but it sounds a bit loosey-goosey to me and my cynical side kicks in when I see scientists trying to force a theory to coincide with what they want to prove although a short article here simplifies the explanation.

The other question of course is whether CO2 concentrations are really what raised global temperatures temperatures in the first place.  There are those who believe that the recent global warming was actually caused by heavy sunspot activity and with it having reached its lowest level in decades we are about to see a cooling trend. Of course there is strong opposition to this theory.

To confuse things even more, even though global temperatures have decreased and even if they continue to decrease, the global warming theorists say that it is only a false hope.

The snow storms and freezing temperatures across the country aren’t just a one off, but the winters of the past few years have actually been getting colder. The world’s average global temperature has fallen for the past four years, and 2008 was the coldest since 2000. The British Met Office has released figures that the show the earth’s average for 2008 was 14.3 C , which is 0.14 C below the average temperature for 2001 – 2007. Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has also released figures with similar results. So what’s going on? Is global warming dead? No such luck, say meteorologists. The climatic variations are caused by La Niña, which is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It is the mirror image of the El Niño climate cycle. According to researchers at Kiel University, these natural variations will mask any warming from climate change until about 2015. After that, temperatures rises will start to accelerate.

So even if it starts to get colder it is going to get warmer. You can’t bloody win at this game.

The worrisome part of this whole equation (at least to me) is that global warming has reached the status of becoming a quasi-religion. People who question it are compared to holocaust deniers. The agendas of many environmental groups as well as the reputations and livelihoods of politicians and scientists are tied in so strongly to the global warming bandwagon that you wonder if any new information that legitimately challenged the current science would ever see the light of day.

The final question is that even if climate change has been accelerated by CO2 excess can we do anything to reduce it or even slow it down?

There are theories for reduction, such as adding lime to the oceans, or adding marine life to to floating icebergs, neither of which is probably practical.

However, a word of caution.

1. Reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations is not the same as stabilising them. Carbon rationing is about trying to stabilise CO2 concentrations. Carbon rationing is about doing as little further harm to the planet as possible.

2. There is currently no known mechanism for reducing atmospheric CO2. Every molecule of CO2 that we add to the atmosphere will stay there on average for 30,000 years.

3. Attempts at reducing atmospheric CO2 levels, particularly those put forward by James Hansen (explained below) involve dangerous experiments at planetary engineering, which have the potential to accelerate and intensify the climate and extinction crisis which we are facing.(my emphasis)

4. There is just a chance that, in decades to come, somebody might invent an efficient way of air capture of CO2 which won’t use vast amounts of energy, nor require vast areas of land. As James Hansen and the IPCC report state, such technology does not currently exist and is a long way off, if it ever will work. This is why James Hansen has not incorporated it into his proposals.

It seems to me that the only indisputable fact is that there is nothing constant in nature and that includes the global climate. The earth warms and it cools. Whether we started it or are just helping it along is moot. Better global warming – at least within reasonable boundaries – rather than global cooling. I simply question whether we have the ability to change the process or if we can whether we can do so without causing even more problems.

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