Man-made pollution is evident; from litter in local streams to plumes of carbon dense smoke billowing out of power plants, it has become apparent sustainability is not a priority. In addition, our resources are being used and abused much faster than the earth can replenish and recover. Recently, this abuse on Mother Nature has become a topic of great interest. Known as the “green movement”, advocates stress awareness of waste and pollution and its effect on the environment. The most publicized consequence of our non-earth friendly actions is global warming. This theory is blindly adopted with little scientific evidence because it justifies the worlds’ need to go green. When the overwhelming facts concerning greenhouse gasses and the sheer amount of waste humans produce is taken into account, there is no wonder global warming is justified in peoples’ minds. Although human induced global warming is a popular theory, it is misleading because climate change has occurred throughout history, our most recent period of warming ended over ten years ago, and the earth is currently in a state of cooling.
Climate change is nothing new. In the life span of earth, a climate where humans could and have inhabited the planted are mere smudges on its’ climate time line. Starting with the big bang over 13.7 billion years ago, the earth has experienced cycles of hot flashes and freezing spells (Global Warming and Global Cooling, 2007, p. 2). As recently as 650 million years ago the earth was frozen solid. This period of 10 million years is known as snowball earth. After this period, volcanoes began to erupt producing greenhouse gasses, which warmed the earth. Over the next 400 million years, global temperatures rose and fell allowing for small life forms to succeed. Plants, cold-blooded animals, and insects did well during this time. Then, quite suddenly, there was mass extinction. Over 95% of the earth’s species died due to flood basalt eruptions lasting for one million years. The earths’ temperatures rose an impressive 18oF due to a 700% increase of CO2 during this time. It then took 195 billion years for the blanked of CO2 to dissipate and earth to cool, once again allowing inhabitants. At 55 million years ago another 200F increase occurred due to increased methane gas. Over the next 40 million years, temperatures continued to fluctuate, allowing for the polar ice caps to expand and retreat. Since, the climate has stayed relatively stable with only a single ice age. When temperatures warmed, woolly mammoths that thrived during the ice age and other mega mammals could not survive, while humans where able to adapt (A Global Warning?, 2007). However, it would be naive to thinking climate change would miraculously come to a stop on behalf of human inhabitation. The above-mentioned changes had drastic effects on the earth. Recently there has been less drastic, however still noticeable, climate fluctuations.
The most recognized examples of modern climate change are known as the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age. The Medieval Warming Period (MWP) took place between 800 and 1300 AD and consisted of temperatures up to 5oF warmer than today. These temperatures played a huge role in history, as it was what allowed the Vikings to colonize Greenland. Although it is currently being debated, this period of warmth could have been global. If so, the slightly elevated temperatures seen over the last thirty years would not be unprecedented. Following the MWP was the Little Ice Age (LIA). This period consisted of three consecutive cold spikes with slightly warmer periods in-between. These spikes occurred at about 1650,1770, and 1850 and are well documented in North America and Europe. As with the MWP, it is debatable whether these were global events (Natural and anthropogenic climate change, 2004). Regardless, a correlation between temperature and sun spot activity known as the Maunder Minimum developed with help from observations from that time (An imperative for climate change planning, 2009). Not only do these historical events contradict the current theory of man-mad global warming; the research gained from these events brings to light other justification for natural occurring climate change.
There is no doubt the earth has and will continue to experience periods of warming. Our most recent period began in the 1900s and lasted through the year 2000. “Research results show that the sun, which began brightening 100-150 years ago, may be the strongest it has been in 1,000 years. This increased brightness is due to sunspots. It is not crystal clear as to the correlation between sunspots and climate change, however, a rough assumption is that the more sun spots there are, the brighter it is, and there for more heat is produced. In addition, sunspots create a magnetic cycle that has been found to correlate with the Northern Hemisphere land temperatures (Global Warming: Sun Takes Some Heat, 2004). The important thing to note is the date attached to the above data. At that time the earth was in fact warming. Since the early 2000s, data has shown the earth is once again cooling.
According to NASA, sunspots are on the decline; out of the 365 days in 2008, 266 where sunspot free. This was though to be an all time low since 1913, but low and behold 2009 came a round with 87% of the days sunspot free. The graph accompanying the article depicts a peak in solar activity right around 2000, with a sharp decline predicted through 2012. Other studies have found similar evidence. In the journal Energy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization, and Environmental Effects a study was published analyzing the affects of CO2 and the atmosphere. The scientists concluded “relatively short-term variations in global temperature are mainly caused by the variations in solar activity and are not linked to the changes in carbon dioxide content in [the] atmosphere”(Cooling of Atmosphere, 2008). The recent cooling and previous period of warming are considered short-term temperature changes and cannot be sited for significant data. However, events like the Little Ice Age have more historical bearing. 500 years is a much more substantial duration of time, yet still trivial in comparison to the earths’ first ice age of one million years.
As the worlds’ reliance on fossil fuels increases, so do the byproducts of consumerism. Ever increasing amounts of CO2 and other green house gasses are being admitted into the atmosphere as more cars are on the road and more energy is being produced. Previously, CO2 billowing out of volcanoes was responsible for drastic temperature changes. At times the earth was more than 20oF warmer than it is now. This is poor support for global warming theorists however. The volcanic eruptions responsible for the warming occurred over the course of thousands of years. These endless eruptions covered the majority of the earth in molten lava and produced miles of thick carbon (A Global Warning?, 2007). This scene is unfathomable for humans and is in no way comparable to the current levels of CO2 found in the atmosphere.
It is clear there is little concrete scientific evidence to support or deny global warming. What can be confirmed is that climate change is inevitable. Some studies have gone as far as to say the increase in CO2 leads to cooling, not warming.
This conclusion has a simple physical explanation: when the infrared radiation is absorbed by the molecules of greenhouse gases, its energy is transformed into thermal expansion of air, which causes convective fluxes of air masses restoring the adiabatic distribution of temperature in the troposphere. Our estimates show that release of small amounts of carbon dioxide (several hundreds ppm), which are typical for the scope of anthropogenic emission, does not influence the global temperature of Earth’s atmosphere (Cooling of Atmosphere, 2008).
If this subject is studied further and found to be true, there is no doubt a wrench will be thrown in this crucial argument. With compelling, yet questionable evidence for those who agree and disagree with the theory of global warming. There is no doubt the debate will continue as more research is preformed and time goes on.
There is no question global warming is a complex issue, however it is nothing new. Throughout history extreme climate has been normal. Regardless of what man kind has done byway of contamination, the earth will continue about its’ climate cycles without batting an eye. Human life is a fluke, developed from ideal conditions in an inhabitable environment. Humans are but insignificant guest in this world who have failed to respect their hostess. They have polluted and contaminated the environment, but the earth will power on. The current climate fluctuations are not significant enough to draw conclusions on. Be it another ice age or incinerating heat, the tectonic plates will shift, the volcanoes will erupt and over millions of years people will be but a memory. However, humans are the earths’ current inhabitants. To continue to live, sustainability must be kept in mind. Research is contradictory on the subject of climate change, however there is no denying, the earth is its own entity, unbound by the actions of man. Humans are but innocent bystanders of earth’s natural climate change.
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