Cause for alarm? Or minor natural variation?
The following alarmist paragraph seems typical of what we read today: “The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot. Reports all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared.”
Yet in fact it’s a quote from the US Weather Bureau dated 1922, ninety years ago. There are other similar reports from the late 19th and early 20th century. Climate alarmism is not a new or recent phenomenon. We read breathless accounts of Russian icebreakers making their way through Arctic seas as though this was unprecedented, yet similar voyages are recorded a century ago.
During the 10,000 years of the current Interglacial (and arguably for much longer) there has been a natural climate cycle of warming and cooling of around 1000 years. In the last 2000 years we’ve seen the Roman Optimum, the much cooler Dark Ages, the Mediæval Warm Period, and the Little Ice Age of the 17th & 18th centuries. The best interpretation of the slight warming in the last 150 years is nothing to do with human activity and industrial emissions (which it pre-dates), but simply a recovery from the Little Ice Age and the beginning of a new 21st Century Optimum. We should be glad of it, since all history shows that mankind generally does better in warmer periods than in cooler periods.
It is true that around the world glaciers are retreating — although rather slowly, and not consistently. But geological evidence shows exactly what we should expect — that glaciers tend to grow in cool periods, and retreat in warm periods. So far, so obvious. We should expect similar effects with sea ice. Yet over the last ten years Arctic ice cover has shown little variation — again, this is what we might expect, since even Prof Phil Jones of the UEA CRU has admitted that there has been no statistically significant global warming for fifteen years.
Nor can we expect significant changes in sea level. It’s worth noting that despite the media hysteria, sea level changes are very small indeed. In fact the painstaking studies of people like oceanographer Nils-Axel Mörner over decades show almost no sea level variation around islands like Tuvalu and the Maldives — those poster-children for climate alarmism. Nor should we expect sea level change. Arctic sea ice is floating, so when it melts it doesn’t affect sea level (Archimedes). Any melting of the Greenland ice shield might add to sea level. But the slight warming which could affect Greenland has also increased precipitation in Antarctica, where ice mass is tending to increase (and temperatures don’t seem to be rising). There were dramatic sea level rises at the beginning of the current interglacial (creating inter alia the English Channel, and separating Britain from France), but the rate of rise has decreased ever since.
Al Gore famously illustrated a polar bear on an ice floe. He seems oblivious of the fact that the bear is perhaps the best swimmer amongst terrestrial mammals, or that they survived the previous Interglacial — the Eemian, 100,000 years ago — perfectly well. The polar bear is the animal of choice for Warmist propaganda. Yet recent studies show that far from suffering in the heat, polar bear populations are doing rather well, with substantially increasing numbers. Similar comments apply to penguins in the Antarctic. The BBC highlighted a “scientific report” in 2009 predicting that global warming would decimate Emperor penguins. Yet a couple of weeks back it reported a new study showing the Emperor penguin population to be double the previous estimate.
The global warming scare is hopelessly over-hyped. It’s time to get it into perspective.