Climate Concern is Mis-directed
“Climate” is formally the thirty year “average” of weather. Climate is what we expect, on average – weather is what we actually get.
It is true that atmospheric conditions (dust, smoke, smog, aerosols, aircraft contrails, clouds and trace gases) can affect Earth’s weather. But none of these minor atmospheric constituents can generate energy – they merely filter, reflect, transfer or redirect a portion of solar energy. The effects of any changes tend to be short-lived, or reversed as the atmosphere clears; or they often trigger negative feedbacks that largely offset the initial effect. In particular, carbon dioxide does not drive the weather. No weather forecaster notes what tomorrow’s level of CO2 is likely to be, and no farmer wonders what it will be next spring.
The sun is the short-term weather wizard. It clearly controls the changing temperatures of day and night, winter and summer; it energizes the atmosphere to give the power to storms and cyclones; together with the Moon it produces tides and gyres and their changing cycles drive weather cycles on Earth. Meteorologists, long-range forecasters who study solar and planetary phases, and many intelligent farmers are best placed to forecast weather. The carbon-centric model predictions have failed dismally, suggesting strongly that carbon dioxide does not control weather.
Does CO2 drive significant climate change?
Earth currently basks in a benign climate interval, an interglacial warm period punctuated by occasional “Little Ice Ages” and between long periodic species-destroying eras of ice. As recently as twelve thousand years ago, large parts of Earth’s surface were covered by ice sheets up to 3km thick. Many species of mega-fauna disappeared suddenly in this cataclysm.
Global warming has never been a threat to Earth’s inhabitants, even with temperatures several degrees above those of this modern warm era. The real danger to life on Earth is global cooling, and its big brother, Snow-ball Earth.
Studies of sunspots and other solar variables suggest that a “Little Ice Age” is probably caused by solar variations. If solar activity decreases, two things happen. Firstly, Earth’s surface cools because of the reduced solar radiation. Secondly, the sun’s magnetic shield also weakens, allowing more cosmic rays to strike the atmosphere, thus creating more nuclei for cloud generation. The extra cloud cover adds to the cooling trend by shading the surface and reflecting more solar radiation. Those who study solar cycles are already warning that Earth is facing the likely onset of a modern “Little Ice Age”. See: More on Ice Age Predictions and Why Humans Have Little to do with Climate Change.
Heading for a little Ice Age now?
Intuition tells us that all we need for a “Big Ice Age” is sustained cold on Earth’s surface. This would indeed strip most of the moisture out of the atmosphere as rain, hail and snow; freeze lakes and rivers; produce cold dry deserts; and create growing fringes of sea-ice in previously temperate latitudes. But cold alone will not create thick continents of ice from coast to coast. To create massive ice sheets, energy is needed to evaporate a huge volume of water from the oceans which is then condensed in the cold atmosphere and added to the growing ice sheets.
Some ice ages also start suddenly. Millions of mammoths and other mega-fauna were buried in hail which was so sudden and sustained that their un-decomposed carcasses are still being excavated from their icy tombs.
For large ice sheets to grow quickly on land two things are required – warm seas to evaporate billions of tons of water from the oceans, and a frigid atmosphere over land to quickly turn that moisture into continental rain, snow and ice. As cloud cover increases, and snow falls in increasing amounts, the white snowy surface reflects more solar energy back into space, maintaining the cold atmosphere despite the expulsion of large quantities of two “greenhouse” gases (water vapor and carbon dioxide) from the warm ocean into the atmosphere.
To plunge Earth suddenly into a sustained “Big Ice Age” thus requires huge amounts of energy to heat the seas while not warming the atmosphere – neither solar energy nor any greenhouse gas can do this. Geothermal energy from widespread undersea volcanism is the most likely agent.
Ocean research reveals that long strips of molten crustal rocks are periodically exposed by Earth movements along faulted trenches in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Like kettles on the stove, the oceans above these “Belts of Fire” get hot, releasing water vapor and carbon dioxide gases. A cold cloudy atmosphere completes the conveyor belt, condensing water and soluble gases from the atmosphere to produce fast-growing snow fields and ice sheets.
There is abundant evidence in the geological record that many geological eras end with massive earth movements, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, a sudden ice age and widespread extinction of many species. These eras of intense volcanism and earth movements appear to be triggered by magnetic reversals on Earth, which result from electro-magnetic disturbances from the Cosmos. Minor eruptions from undersea volcanoes can change ocean temperatures and currents, and produce weather disrupters such as El Nino. Huge eruptions (or large meteor impacts) can trigger earthquakes, global veils of dust and aerosols, tidal waves or even a new ice age.
Massive Chain of volcanoes discovered in the Southern Ocean:
Retreat of the ice sheets requires a reversal of the water-ice conveyor belt – melt the ice, evaporate the water and condense the moisture back into now cooling oceans. Only continental volcanism, maybe assisted by warming solar cycles, can cause the often-fast retreat of the ice sheets.
To make these dramatic/alarming changes to Earth’s climate requires far more energy than humans or traces of non-combustible gases in the atmosphere can provide.
Water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide is a bit player), but neither of these gases can warm Earth out of an ice age. A cold atmosphere has limited ability to hold these greenhouse gases – water vapor condenses in the cold air and is lost as rain and snow; carbon dioxide is lost by dissolving in the cold water and then gets trapped in the ice sheets. The sparse greenhouse gases that remain in a cold atmosphere are powerless to break the grip of the ice. It needs agencies which provide real energy into the system (such as the sun or geothermal heat).
Carbon dioxide does not drive weather, or climate, or the icy extinctions – it varies mainly as a result, not the cause, of past temperature changes. Its great role in the global scheme is to feed the biosphere. To spend money trying to interfere with the carbon cycle is foolish; to try to bury carbon dioxide is a crime against the biosphere.
Instead of wasting vast amounts of money on useless climate models and futile attempts to reduce the atmospheric content of a benign and beneficial gas like carbon dioxide, we should redirect climate research funds into studying the cycles of ice ages, submarine volcanism, magnetic reversals, solar activity and comets – one of these is more likely to cause our next climate catastrophe. Meteorologists, astro-physicists, geologists and cycles analysts, not government-directed carbon-centric climate modelers, are best placed to forecast future trends in climates.
Viv Forbes has science qualifications and has spent decades studying cycles in Earth history, geology and climate.