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Cooling the fears of the warming crowd

January 12, 2008|By JAMES H. WARNER

Hans Buhrer has written to take issue with my comments on global warming. I think his attempt at rebuttal merits a few responses.

First, I have no need to "cherry pick" arguments to defend my position. I don't have a dog in this fight. If someone can convince me that there is any significant threat posed by the human contribution to "global warming" I will accept the evidence. However, when someone tells me there's no longer any room for debate on a scientific subject, then what we are confronted with is not scientific knowledge but a species of religious dogma which is not open to any evidence.

It is true, as Buhrer says, that science does not cherry pick arguments. However, the proponents of reducing man-made carbon emissions cherry pick the evidence that they present. For example, I have frequently seen film of icebergs falling off a glacier with the implication that this proves that the ice shield on Greenland is melting.

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However, the glacier is not in Greenland and the icebergs are not falling off of it because of global warming, man-made or otherwise. The film shows the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina. A glacier is a river of ice that flows from higher altitude to lower altitude. Temperatures increase as the altitude gets lower, at a rate of about three degrees per thousand feet.

The icebergs are falling off of the glacier because at about 200 meters the glacier flows into a freshwater lake. When it enters the water, the portion of the glacier that is below the water line begins to melt, weakening the face of the glacier and permitting icebergs to fall off.

What we do not see in the movies that are played to scare us about global warming is that on the other side of the lake there's a viewing platform with huge crowds of people who come to watch the icebergs fall into the lake. Frankly, it is willful dishonesty to use those images to prove a point unrelated to the icebergs being shown.

I don't know what Buhrer is talking about when he says that carbon dioxide is the "most potent" greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide constitutes only one-third of 1 percent of the atmosphere. Water vapor is usually between one half of 1 percent, in extreme deserts, to about 4 percent. Atmospheric water vapor absorbs and then reradiates five to seven times as much heat as atmospheric carbon dioxide does.

As for solar cycles, Buhrer is correct that there is a 22-year cycle, known as the Hale Cycle. However, he is wrong to say that this is the only solar cycle. There is, as I said, also the 11-year Schwabe sunspot cycle. In addition, there is the 87-year Geissbeg Cycle, the 210-year Suess Cycle, sometimes called the de Vries Cycle, and the 2300 year Hallstat Cycle. Other, minor cycles have been detected. Further, there are recurring climatic cycles that are only loosely related to solar activity, such as sea currents, which affect warming and cooling.

One of the Plinys (I cannot recall which one) mentions the decline in vineyards in Southern Britain during the first century A.D. Nine hundred years later Vikings were colonizing Iceland and Greenland. Crops and fodder for livestock could be grown in Greenland at the time. Four hundred years later, as the world began moving into the so-called little ice age, the Vikings were gone from Greenland. We are still emerging from the little ice age.

Finally, Buhrer is partially correct when he says we should be having another ice age. We can expect cooling after the peaking of two solar cycles between 2030 and 2038. After that, the seas will again begin slowly absorbing more and more carbon dioxide and our problem, if we have one, will be (temporarily) solved.

Of course, if we don't want to wait until then, we could get rid of several times the carbon dioxide that the silly Kyoto Treaty would have done if we simply fertilized the seas with certain iron-containing compounds that would spark a plankton bloom, which would absorb enough carbon dioxide to cool the fears of the Kyoto crowd.

But I guess that would be too easy and put too many scare-mongering, and tax-fund absorbing "scientists" out of work.

James H. Warner is a retired attorney. He served as a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan from 1985 until 1989.

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