What to Make of Global Warming

There are many who argue that the most pressing problem facing mankind is global warming. Former American vice president Al Gore was just here in Australia, arguing that very thing. He has produced a film to show the dangers of global warming. He and many others are convinced that this is our most pressing crisis, and must be addressed instantly and radically.

However not everyone is convinced. There are a number of scientists who do not buy the global warming doomsday scenarios. Indeed, there is a fair amount of debate about whether in fact global warming is taking place, and if it is, just how serious it might be. Unanimity on this matter is far from certain.

One scientist who remains sceptical is William Kininmonth, a former head of the National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organisation. Writing in today’s Australian (September 12, 2006) he expresses doubt about the common wisdom on global warming.

In an article entitled “Don’t be Gored into going along ,” he states, “Climate change attracts attention because weather and climate extremes account for 70 per cent of natural disasters. Also, the historical evidence is that climate goes through gyrations that are beneficial or destructive for civilisations.”

Changing weather patterns seem to be the norm: “The periods of the Roman Empire, medieval Europe and the past 200 years were all of remarkable warmth. The Dark Ages of the first millennium and the Little Ice Age of the second were characterised by cold, by advanced mountain glaciers and by social turmoil.”

He continues, “For the past 10,000 years, the Earth has been near peak warmth in the climatic roller-coaster that has characterised the past million years. Yet only 20,000 years ago, great ice sheets covered much of North America and Europe; permanent glaciers were also present over southeastern Australia and Tasmania. The sea level was 130m lower than today and land bridges connected New Guinea and Tasmania with the Australian mainland. The Great Barrier Reef was but limestone cliffs bordering the Coral Sea.”

He then offers somewhat technical information having to do with climate change. He then declares, “Increasing the CO2 concentration will have little additional effect.” He goes on to elaborate:

“Evaporation of water vapour will constrain the Earth’s temperature and prevent a runaway greenhouse effect. Back radiation from the atmosphere because of greenhouse gases (water vapour, CO2 and so on), clouds and aerosols raises surface temperatures. But surface temperatures are also constrained by evaporation of water from plants, moist soil and the oceans. The tropical oceans generally do not exceed 30C and it is only over the arid inland that daytime temperatures exceed 40C. Any increase in back radiation because of increased CO2 will largely be offset by additional evaporation that will constrain the rise of surface temperature.”

Thus, “Collapse of the polar ice sheets and a sea level rise of several metres is an unlikely scenario.”

“There are predictions, based on computer models, that Australia’s rainfall will decrease as CO2 concentrations rise. According to published Bureau of Meteorology data, Australia (except for the southwest corner) was wetter during the second half of the 20th century than during the first. Against the prediction, as CO2 concentrations increased, there was an increase in continent-wide rainfall. These trends are likely to be no more than coincidence in the cycles of climate variability.”

He concludes, “The Earth’s climate system is extremely complex and we have only limited knowledge of many of its aspects. International collaboration is slowly unravelling some of the secrets and providing the basis for preparation and adaptation to change. Scientists’ continuing inability to predict with confidence a season in advance should be cause for hesitation when projections of decades to centuries are made. Computer models are not reality and alarmist predictions have no sound basis.”

Where real problems exist, they must be faced and dealt with. But there is at least a healthy minority of climate experts and scientists who are concerned about exaggerated claims about global warming. Since many of us are not scientists ourselves, we must rely on other experts. Given the division of opinion on this issue, the debate must be allowed to continue.


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7 Replies to “What to Make of Global Warming”

  1. I agree totally with your cautious approach to this global-warming hype. I also strongly agreed with Andrew Bolt’s article ‘Bulled by a Gore’ that you refer to in your other article.

    Christians have every reason to be sceptical. Many of the scientists who tell us that evolution and the big-bang are facts and who also like to tell us that the earth is 4.5 billion years old are also the ones telling us about the ‘fact’ of man-made global-warming. Even the sceptic you mention above has wrong presuppositions in that he refers to a million year period of earth history.

    How can scientists who have a fictional view of earth history (based upon philosophical naturalism) ever be trusted to make accurate predictions of future climate conditions? Only when science is built upon a biblical understanding of earth history could we even begin to trust its’ predictions of the future.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  2. How can science be built on biblical theory? It doesn’t compute. Science is not religon. Religon is not science.
    When only 15 out of 3000 scientist dispute the fact that global warming is caused by human activity I don’t feel there is much to argue with.
    Jesus, from my understanding taught respect of the earth and all her people. Raping the land, over consumption, chemical creatons, taking from others, their land, their livelyhood, these are not Christian values nor are they sane.
    You can’t apply the Bible convieniently to foster an agenda.
    Nor can you believe scientist that are paid by agenda based corperations aimed at discrediting the preciousness of the Earth to foster their own financial gain.

    Mary Beth Bryant

  3. Thanks Mary Beth
    Of course my article, at least, did not mention the Bible or religion. As to the relationship between science and religion, that is another whole discussion – stay tuned.

    My piece merely mentioned that there is not unanimity on this issue. Many of these same scientists were warning of global cooling just several decades ago. So the science can and does change, and disagreements are normal.

    Also, there can be as many scientists motivated by anti-capitalism and big business agendas as there are those working with the same.

    And yes, believers are to be good stewards of the earth which God has entrusted to us. But that means clear thinking on what are the actual causes of our environmental problems, and what are the best solutions as well.

    Contrary to your black and white claims, there is room to move here it seems.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Mary beth is very right that only those scientists largely funded by the fossil fuel and car corporations have any real doubts about global warming. All the warmest years in southern Australia have occurred since 1997, and Melbourne has not exceeded its 1885 to 1996 average rainfall in that period.

    Whilst it is true that eastern Australia was wetter in the second half of the twentieth century that the first, this is largely due to an exceptionally wet decade in the 1950s, when Melbourne’s average rainfall from 1949 to 1956 was 780 millimetres as against 520 for the last ten.

    Julien Peter Benney

  5. Good to hear some sense amidst the paranoia.

    Regarding ‘biased’ scientists, aren’t all scientists in need of earning a living? Hasn’t the whole global warming hype created larger research grants these so-called ‘unbiased’ scientists rely upon?

    It takes little speculation to see the effect on research grants were there no public concern over climate.

    Perhaps that’s whay so many of the learned sceptics are retired?

    Jeremy Peet

  6. The global warming true believers seem to be at least in part quasi-religious fanatics as their ideology is a doomsday senario in the tradition of the Christian apocalypse brought on by modern man and our sin of overconsumption – a sort of greenie penance that owes at least as much to faith as it does to hard science. Like Freudian psychology this doomsday weather science can incorporate any eventuality – if it doesn’t rain this is because global warming leads to drought; on the other hand if there are storms and a cold snap, the theory can “explain” this eventuality as well, but always of course after the fact. Thanks Bill M. for an alternate if heritical interpretation of the facts.

    Jonathan Lickliter

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