Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Day Before Yesterday

The world is changing. Once-fertile fields are becoming arid wastelands. Forests are shrinking and deserts expanding. Mighty rivers diminish while the oceans rise. Icebergs float off the coasts of Ireland. People across the planet suffer a variety of climactic calamities. In Central America whole villages are abandoned as crops fail. Widespread famine strikes Africa. Egyptians are reported as eating the dead, especially children. Global climate change threatens the end of civilization and humanity.

How can I argue with icebergs in Irish waters? The human tragedy makes a compelling example. The only question that I need to have answered is how industry, automobiles, and CFCs caused all this to happen 4200 years ago. You see, the dire events I described in the opening paragraph began to occur over 4000 years before the Industrial Revolution, the mass production and use of cars, and refrigeration’s exhale of chlorofluorocarbons.

A lake known as Faiyum, some 65 meters deep, evaporated. Birch forests in Iceland became grassland. Oak reappeared in White Moss, UK. Italy’s Lake Castglione receeded. The Mayan civilization and the Egyptian Old Kingdom collapsed due to drought and famine. The Nile flooding, which was the engine of Egyptian supremacy, ceased, season after season, for decades. The tomb of Ankhtifi, who died at the height of the catastrophe, contains hieroglyphs that translate as “all Upper Egypt was dying of hunger, to such an extent that everyone has come to eating his children.”

Independent scientific studies coincide in their conclusions. A study of volcanic ash trapped in icebergs shows them floating as far south as Ireland. When the icebergs melt the ash falls into the sediment where scientists can find it, study it, and date it. Archeological studies of the campsites of ancient nomads in the deserts of Egypt find charcoal from Acacia trees which when carbon dated give clear evidence of the transition. The mystery of the disappearance of the Mayan civilization mirrors the contemporaneous failure of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. Archeological studies throughout the world have documented this catastrophic global climate change.

Climate change is nothing new to the Earth. The Milankovitch Cycles are variations in the eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession of the Earth. Contrary to common understanding, the Earth is not really stable at all. Tectonic plates slip and slide over the mantle causing earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanos. In the same vein, the planet itself fluctuates in how it moves through space. Alterations we would consider minuscule in our daily lives, in the life of a planet cause global catastrophe. To us that’s bad, to the planet it’s just another day in the life.

A change in the polar orientation occurred roughly 6000 years ago. The result was enhanced temperature variations. The atmosphere and oceans are highly sensitive to temperature, and currents changed (giving rise to El Nino - I bet you thought that was a recent development). This caused mass migrations as places like the Sahara changed from fertile fields to deserts and the rise of many of what we consider ancient civilizations as humanity perfected agriculture.

Just as people change and age, the planet has cycles, and even the sun changes over time. Our sun is a super nuclear reactor emitting magnetic radiation as well as light. That magnetic field affects what kind of radiations reach our planet. Alterations in that field and the rays that then bath the planet can be measured by the presence of certain isotopes (carbon-14 and beryllium-10) in marine sediment cores. The radiations do many things (including cloud formation) that affect the environment and weather. Fairly regular cycles of warming and cooling have been identified and in many cases directly related to events in human history; such as the fall of the Mayans and Old Kingdom Egyptians, warm periods promoting advances in ancient Greece, Rome, and Medieval Europe, cool periods destroying agriculture in Europe and China, and even the settling and depopulating of Greenland.

Much of what the environmental movement claims as true is demonstrably false. Deforestation: “If the same rate of deforestation continues for the next 20 years, which is highly unlikely, taking into account the series of measures in place to protect the forest, the loss would amount to 8% and not 42% as stated in the [Science magazine] article (Brazil’s Science and Technology Ministry)” and “new research in Brazil suggests that around 87.5% of the previously mapped area of the Amazon remains largely intact and, of the 12.5% that has been deforested, one-third to one-half is fallow or in the process of regeneration (Philip Stott, professor of biogeography, University of London).” Endangered Species: “About 1,600,000 species have been identified. Estimates of the actual number of species range from 2 mil to 80 mil. Non one knows the rate of extinction or the rate at which new species are arising. The best current estimate based on actual observations, and using an extremely high estimate of the likely increase in the extinction rate, is that about 7/10s of 1% of species may go extinct over the next 50 years. (Jon Jewett, Enviro-Skepticism).”

As in the environment, so it is in politics. The political defeat of their movement spells the end of their financing. Thus, the ‘greens’ claim a litany of half- and un-truths about the Bush environmental policy. The Bush Administration has proposed a plan in 2003 to reduce mercury emissions from power plants by 40% by 2010 and a further 30% by 2018. The 2002 Healthy Forests Initiative tries “to reduce the red tape forest managers must wade through before thinning forests” of the undergrowth that fuels forest fires and “restoring our forest ecosystems to health and providing good habitat for wildlife.” The President also instituted an emissions cap and trading plan for greenhouse gasses, while in the late 1990's, science-based risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis were introduced into legislation and were defeated by the Clinton Administration and environmental activists.

Given all the information readily at hand, why are there still so many people convinced that humanity is destroying the planet? The ‘Global Warming’ crowd a century ago was the ‘Global Cooling’ crowd. In the 70s they were the ‘Nuclear Winter’ crowd. I suspect, these were the same people who punished Galileo, ridiculed Columbus, and distrusted Pasteur. At every advance in human culture there are people who oppose it. The rank and file are misinformed and have not been trained in critical thinking, so they accept theories that sound good and seem to fit their world view. The leadership is another matter, though. I could tell you that they are anti-capitalist or anti-American, but there’s an easier argument to make. Employ the ‘follow-the-money’ adage and you’ll almost never go wrong. It goes without saying that ‘fessing up’ to the science would denude the tree of life of Worldwatch, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and their ilk. Telling the truth would dramatically impact donations, subscriptions, speech engagements, rallies, and the other streams of income. Humanity need not be held hostage by the environment to be a good steward of it.

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