Posted by: Rob | November 19, 2008

Is the Climate really Changing?

I continue to follow the neverending debate in the media and on blogs about climate change and global warming.  And whether or not human activity has anything to do with it.

Most recently, there has been some kerfuffle over the fact that Russian air temperature data from September was copied over to October.  Now there is a review of past data reported for northern Russia going on as the data gathering installations may be introducing significant error into the calculations for global temperature.  This is apparently the hallmark data point for concluding whether or not the earth is getting warmer or not.

Originally, I was a skeptic of global warming.  Like others I pointed to a mid ’70’s vintage report by climate scientists that concluded the earth was heading into a cooling trend, possibly another ice age.  During the heady controversial days before and after inking of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, I remember that I was furious about attempts to control greenhouse gas emissions while real air pollutants were seemingly ignored.

I read quite a bit about data and theories that seemed to support the supposition that the anthropogenic global warming theories were in error at best and a hoax at worst.  I recall arguing the point with others, although I probably never convinced anyone.

Nowadays I don’t give much credence to either theory.  If global warming is happening and if it’s the result of human activity, then there’s not likely much that can be done about it now.  And if it isn’t happening, then all the better!

But I do have some questions.  I wonder about all the hubbub over air temperatures and, particularly, the trends.  Air temperature is pretty variable, I believe, and temperature effects can be highly localized.  Until we have the capability to accurately measure air temperature nearly everywhere on the globe, I don’t think that any concrete conclusions can be drawn from air temperature data.

I read in Elizabeth Kolbert’s book “Field Notes from a Catastrophe” that core temperatures through the permafrost at high latitudes are a much more stable and reliable indicator of changes in global heating or cooling.  Why don’t we hear more about these measurements?

I don’t know.  It’s beyond my ambition level to really get involved in the debate to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong.  I’m more focused on how I’m going to cope with whatever changes may come.

Is global warming happening or not?  Again, I don’t know.  What I do know is that yesterday was November 18th.  According to Environment Canada, normal seasonal maximum temperature here should be -1 C and the normal seasonal minimum should be -12 C.  But it was raining in the morning.  Raining.  Around here, this time of year the precipitation should only be snow.  And yesterday I dug the last of the carrots and beets out of the garden.  Around here, this time of year, the ground should be frozen solid by now.

Something is different.

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Responses

  1. I have no idea if global warming is actual or imagined. I wish that things were going so well for me that I had the ROOM to worry about/try to do something about it. I am utterly powerless. You might as well have asked me to prevent the tsunami from hitting Indonesia.

    I just reread that. Seems a bit fatalist, doesn’t it?

  2. The melting glaciers and arctic ice pack is enough to convince me we are warming. As to why, yes, I think it is greenhouse gasses, for at least part of the trend. I probably won’t live long enough to see the worst of it, or if anything we do makes a difference. We are also overdue to have a pole shift from north to south, too. It boggles the mind.

  3. We had flurries down here yesterday, and it’s cold as balls today. I’m not sure if global warming exists either, but it just seems like common sense to decrease greenhouse gases and actual pollutants; better to be safe than sorry.

  4. My understanding, from what I’ve read and heard, is that we have been in the remainder of an ice age and that the warming is inevitable and natural; there’s nothing we can do about that. However, I do believe that humanity may be hastening the process, and generally through things that are hurtful to the environment in the first place–overpopulation, non-sustainable farming practices, and tons of pollution in our air, water, and land. I think, regardless of what the planet is going to do on its own, warming-wise, we shouldn’t shit where we eat, and should take care of the planet. It’s in our own best interests, whether you believe in global warming (or in our power to stop it), or not.


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