The Sky is Falling!

The Sky is Falling!

© David Burton 2015

Global Warming

The Current Debate

     The sky is falling! is a phrase from a folk tale with a moral in it about a chicken, Henny Penny (sometimes called Chicken Little), who believes the world is coming to an end. The story dates back more than 25 centuries. The sky is falling! has become a common idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent. The name Chicken Little has been applied to people accused of being unreasonably afraid, or those trying to incite an unreasonable fear in those around them.

     Unfortunately, too many people, some well-intentioned and others with agendas of their own, have shouted that the sky is falling concerning the issues of global warming and man-induced climate change. Others have challenged these Chicken Littles. In the resultant debate over these global warming issues, proponents contend that global warming is occurring and is an imminent threat to human existence on earth. Opponents in the debate contend that the data collected, the modelling used, and the conclusions drawn are fallacious. Hundreds, if not thousands of articles, blogs, and reports have been published on both sides of the issue – many factual, some politically motivated, many biased, and some without any basis in fact.

     In the remainder of this article, only a miniscule portion of the published material related to global climate change is referenced. Feel free to search out and read the many articles on this controversial subject and to draw your own conclusions. My own conclusions can be found at the end of this article.

     “Temperatures on earth {are reported to} have increased approximately 1.4°F since the early 20th century. Over this time period, atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) have notably increased. Both sides in the debate surrounding global climate change {sometimes} agree on these points.
     “The pro side argues rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases are a direct result of human activities such as burning fossil fuels, and that these increases are causing significant and increasingly severe climate changes including global warming, loss of sea ice, sea level rise, stronger storms, and more droughts. They contend that immediate international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to prevent dire climate changes.
     The con side argues human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are too small to substantially change the earth’s climate and that the planet is capable of absorbing those increases. They contend that warming over the 20th century resulted primarily from natural processes such as fluctuations in the sun's heat and ocean currents. They say the theory of human-caused global climate change is based on questionable measurements, faulty climate models, and misleading science.” (Ref. 1)

     A number of the arguments in favor of the theory of human causation of “Global Warming” are:[1]

  • Overwhelming scientific consensus says human activity is primarily responsible for global climate change.
  • Rising levels of human-produced gases released into the atmosphere create a greenhouse effect that traps heat and causes global warming.
  • The rise in atmospheric CO2 over the last century was clearly caused by human activity, as it occurred at a rate much faster than natural climate changes could produce.
  • The specific type of CO2 that is increasing in earth's atmosphere can be directly connected to human activity.
  • Rapid increases in average temperatures on earth can't be explained by natural climate changes.
  • Natural changes in the sun's activity cannot explain 20th century global warming.
  • Human-produced greenhouse gases are causing the Arctic ice cap to melt at an increasing rate.
  • Sea levels are rising at an unprecedented rate due to global warming.
  • Rapid increases of ocean acidity levels can only be explained by human activity.
  • High rates of increase in ocean temperatures is due to global warming and is causing additional climate changes.
  • High rates of Glacier melting is due to global warming, causing additional climate changes.
  • Human-caused global warming is changing weather systems and making heat waves and droughts more intense and more frequent.
  • Dramatic changes in precipitation, such as heavier storms and less snow, are another sign that humans are causing global climate change.
  • High rates of Permafrost melting is due to global warming, causing further climate changes.
     A number of the arguments opposed to the theory of human causation of “Global Warming” are:[1]
  • More than one thousand scientists disagree that human activity is primarily responsible for global climate change.
  • Earth's climate has always warmed and cooled, and the 20th century rise in global temperature is within the bounds of natural temperature fluctuations over the past 3,000 years.
  • Rising levels of atmospheric CO2 do not necessarily cause global warming, which contradicts the core thesis of human-caused climate change.
  • Human-produced CO2 is re-absorbed by oceans, forests, and other "carbon sinks," negating any climate changes.
  • CO2 is already saturated in earth’s atmosphere, and more CO2, manmade or natural, will have little impact on climate.
  • Global warming and cooling are primarily caused by variations in solar output, not by humans.
  • The rate of global warming has slowed over the last decade even though atmospheric CO2 continues to increase.
  • Predictions of accelerating human-caused climate change are based upon computerized climate models that are inadequate and incorrect.
  • Sea levels have been steadily and naturally rising for thousands of years.
  • The acidity levels of the oceans are within past natural levels, and the current rise in acidity is a natural fluctuation, not the result of human caused climate change.
  • Glaciers have been growing and receding for thousands of years due to natural causes.
  • Deep ocean currents, not human activity, are a primary driver of natural climate warming and cooling cycles.
  • Increased hurricane activity and other extreme weather events are a result of natural weather patterns, not human-caused climate change.
     The debate over global warming and related changes to our environment rages on.

Global Warming is Real and Man is the Cause

     “The current scientific consensus on climate change is that recent warming indicates a fairly stable long-term trend, that the trend is largely human-caused, and that serious damage may result at some future date if steps are not taken to halt the trend.
     “Mainstream scientific organizations worldwide (Royal Society, American Geophysical Union, Joint Science Academies, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, American Meteorological Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science) concur with the assessment that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the human-caused increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.” (Ref. 2)

     “The 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states with 95 percent confidence that humans have caused most, and probably all of the rapid global warming over the past 60 years. Approximately 97 percent of climate experts and peer-reviewed climate science studies agree.
     “There are of course open questions yet to be answered by climate scientists – precisely how sensitive the climate is to the increased greenhouse effect, for example. But even in a best case, low sensitivity scenario, we're headed for dangerously rapid climate change if we continue on our current business as usual path. And the worst case scenario, which is just as likely as the best case scenario, would mean we're headed for a global catastrophe.
     “The IPCC warns that if we want to avoid very dangerous climate change, we're on track to blow through our allowed carbon budget in as little as two to three decades if we continue on our current path of relying on fossil fuels. If we're lucky and the low sensitivity scenario is accurate, perhaps we'll have an extra decade or two, but even in this best case scenario, we're on an unsustainable climate path.” (Ref. 3)

     According to NASA, “The Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.
     “ 'Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.'
          - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
     “The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.
     “Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.
     “The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.
     “Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands." (Ref. 4)

     To support the claim that global warming is occurring and is the result of human activity, NASA goes on to state that, “The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling:
   “Global sea level rose about 6.7 inches in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
   “All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
   “The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top about 2,300 feet of ocean showing warming of 0.10 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
   “The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
   “Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
   “The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
   “Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent.12,13 This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
   “Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.” (Ref. 4)

   Supporters of the hypothesis that Global Warming is real and that man is the cause of this event are calling for world-wide actions to reverse this climatological trend and avoid the calamities which have been forecasted to occur as a result of these climate changes. The proposed corrective actions are quite likely to have significant deleterious side effects on mankind. Could the cure be worse than the illness?

Man is Not the Cause of Global Warming or There is No Global Warming

     What follows is taken from one of the hundreds of articles that debunk the global warming theory and which challenge the contention that man-made gaseous emissions are creating an oncoming environmental disaster.

     “It seems that every few weeks we hear or see some scientific data that seriously challenges the politically correct notion that the activities of man, burning fossil fuels for energy, are irreversibly and catastrophically damaging the Earth’s atmosphere and causing global temperatures to rise to dangerous levels.
     “There are two competing ideas about the last two decades of global temperatures: One says temperatures have plateaued for the last 18 years, but the other that says the rising temperature trend has continued through that period.
     “According to a CNS News story Dr. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center (ESSC) at the University of Alabama/Huntsville, argues that there has been no global warming for at least the last 18 years, [Emphasis mine] and bases that position on actual raw temperature data he and fellow University of Alabama/Huntsville professor and NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer collected from 14 instruments aboard various weather satellites.
     “However, in a story in The Washington Post, a group of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say that based upon their analysis of new surface temperature data and corrections to old data that NOAA knew were imperfect, there has been no break in global warming. [Emphasis mine]
     “Some questions arise from these diametrically opposed opinions:
  • Which of the two methods of measuring global temperature — surface temperatures, used by the NOAA team, or satellite observations, used by Drs. Christy and Spencer — is the most accurate? Or is some combination of the two, or some other method, more accurate?
  • If trained scientists do not, can not, or will not, agree on what the truth is about whether temperatures are rising or not, how can the rest of us understand climate changes?
  • Since the outcome of its analysis confirmed NOAA’s previously held idea about global temperatures increasing, and in light of previous manipulation of data by some well-known scientists, should we be concerned about NOAA 'correcting' data it 'knew were imperfect?'
     “Just last month a paper stated that the global temperature change observed over the last hundred years or so is well within the natural variability of the last 8,000 years.
     “What this means is that even if the global temperature has risen as the global warming faction says, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern, since global temperatures have been in the current range before, and long before man started doing the things the global warming gang thinks are responsible for the increase. [Emphasis mine]
     "The paper was written by Dr. Philip Lloyd, a South Africa-based physicist and climate researcher, who examined ice core-based temperature data going back eight millennia. Dr. Lloyd is a former lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), the body that is perhaps the most honored authority for climate opinion, and an organization that supports manmade global warming.
     “The work of Dr. Lloyd, Dr. Christy and Dr. Spencer is out of the mainstream of climate opinion, a mainstream that is shrinking, as more of its members question the ‘settled science’ of rising global temperatures due to the burning of fossil fuels, and recognize the failure of dozens of flawed climate models that predict warming that many scientists argue hasn’t occurred. More and more, this line of thinking appears more political than scientific. [Emphasis mine]
     “One danger of politically influenced science is that some ideologically motivated government agency will use it as an excuse to impose draconian measures to achieve political goals, some of which are unachievable, and others that are dangerous to our economic system and well-being. Enter the Environmental Protection Agency {EPA}, arguably the most harmful of the abundant federal bureaucracies that increasingly control our every word, thought and deed.
     “In its headlong effort to crush the economies of coal mining states and destroy businesses that rely in whole or in part on coal, the EPA has overdriven its headlights with a scheme that depends upon faking science.
     “The EPA attempted to impose a rule that mandates the use of so-called carbon capture and storage, where CO2 from burning coal would be injected underground instead of being released into the air. The agency was quite content to put this rule into effect, despite knowing that the method does not work.
     “ ‘We submitted comments for the record explaining that EPA had made a mockery of the interagency review process, ignoring the government’s own experts in order to push an ideological agenda,’ the Energy and Environment Legal Institute’s Chris Horner said. Mr. Horner’s organization has forced the EPA to back down on imposing the rule, but a report by Inside EPA says that the White House may force the EPA to go to court and defend a process that it had to admit doesn’t work and is thereby legally indefensible.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 5)

     Rebuffing the EPA's attempt to impose strict environmental regulations, “The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Environmental Protection Agency pollution rules for power plants . . . , in a blow to President Obama's environmental agenda.
     “The majority decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the EPA has to consider the costs of complying with the rules and sent the air pollution regulations back to the agency.
      - - -
     " ‘EPA must consider cost — including cost of compliance — before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost,’ Scalia wrote . . .
     “The decision will have repercussions for other EPA regulations that are key to Obama's climate change agenda. The EPA will now have to examine the cost of compliance for the Clean Power Plan, which is at the heart of the president's environmental agenda.” (Ref. 6)

     Climate change activists call for immediate laws and actions to reverse the global warming trend. Opponents or moderates caution against rash decisions and actions that can produce harmful economic side effects.

     One example of these opposing views occurred in late 2014 when President Obama and China agreed to a “deal calling for deeper cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States in exchange for China setting a target to cap emissions in the future . . . While Obama promised to reduce U.S. emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, China only agreed to begin reducing its carbon emissions by 2030.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 7)

     Climate change militants applauded the actions while moderates viewed the pact as unfair and harmful to U.S. workers and businesses. “House Speaker John Boehner warned that President Barack Obama was waging a ‘crusade’ against affordable energy . . .
     " ‘This announcement is yet another sign that the president intends to double down on his job-crushing policies no matter how devastating the impact for America's heartland and the country as a whole,’ Boehner said after Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping inked a landmark agreement at a summit in Beijing.
     " ‘It is the latest example of the president's crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle-class families.’
     “Boehner was quickly joined by the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said he was "particularly distressed" by the deal,  . . .
     " ‘I read the agreement requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states around the country,’ . . .
      - - -
     “Boehner noted how the House of Representatives passed several bills to ‘rein in’ the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations on carbon emissions and other energy issues.” (Ref. 8)

     Opponents to the contention that human endeavors are the causation of global warming in the 20th and 21st centuries claim that the earth undergoes heating and cooling naturally that such has been shown to be the case for millions of years. Changes in global temperatures over the past century or so are only manifestations of these natural occurrences.

     “Geological data shows evidence of large-scale climate changes in the past, caused by factors like the tilt of the Earth’s axis and tectonic plate movement (as climate is affected by the distribution of the planet’s continents). Some of these changes were gradual; others were much more rapid.
     “Life on Earth has flourished and evolved for hundreds of millions of years. However, this does not mean that the climate has been stable throughout this time.
     “Over the last 4 billion years, the Earth’s climate has changed many times.
     “In the mid Cretaceous, about 100 million years ago, the distribution of fossil plants, and large herbivorous dinosaurs, suggests sub-tropical conditions extended to Alaska and Antarctica and there were no polar ice caps. The planet was warmer than today - scientists have estimated it was 6 – 8°C warmer. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were about 5 times higher than today.” (Ref. 9)

     “Geologically speaking, we live in a time period of intense climatic change. Since the last 1 million years, our species and our human forebears experienced a dozen or so major glaciations of the northern hemisphere, with the greatest ever occurring around 650,000 years ago. During this period of extreme ice buildup, the ice advanced deep into the Midwest, from its center around Hudson Bay in Canada, and deep into Germany, from its center on the Scandinavian Shield. So much ice collected in these two major regions and several lesser ones that the sea level dropped by some 400 feet and the overall global temperature was lowered by around 9°F. Mammoth, mastodon, wooly rhinoceros, giant bison, camels, horses, and many large predators (cats, wolves, bears) roamed the grasslands well south of the rim of the miles-high ice, both in North America and in Europe. Small bands of humans made a living by hunting and gathering in Africa, and perhaps elsewhere. The glaciation that occurred 650,000 years ago lasted some 50,000 years.  . . .” (Ref. 10)

     A Nobel Prize-winning scientist who originally supported President Barack Obama has said that he now does "not believe global warming is a problem, and has openly criticized the president for his position on the issue.
     " 'I would say that basically global warming is a non-problem,' Dr. Ivar Giaever announced during a speech at the 65th Nobel Laureate Conference in Lindau, Germany, last week, according to Climate Depot.
     "Quoting Obama's warning that 'no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,' Giaever said it was a 'ridiculous statement.'
     " 'I say this to Obama: Excuse me, Mr. President, but you're wrong. Dead wrong,' . . .
     " 'Obama said last year that 2014 is [the] hottest year ever. But it's not true. It's not the hottest.'
     "Giaever, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1973, questioned the theory behind fears about rising carbon dioxide levels and said that the theory is not backed by evidence.
     " 'Global warming really has become a new religion. Because you cannot discuss it. It's not proper. It is like the Catholic Church.'
     "Giaever was one of more than 100 co-signers in a letter to the president in March 2009 that was critical of his stance on global warming, saying, 'We the undersigned scientists, maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated.' " (Ref. 11)

Where Do I Stand?

     For me, the jury on Global Warming is still out. As the phvsician's code demands, "Do no harm." Rushing to rash decisions in regard to climate changes can wreak immeasurable harm.

     Starting with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, too many people have jumped to their conclusions about global warming. Is Global warming a fact or a myth? If global warming is taking place, what is the cause? If global warming is taking place, what will be the impact on the planet and on mankind? Can human activities produce an impact on global temperatures? Is global warming good or bad?

     What seems clear to me are the following:
  • The climate is changing - The climate has always changed and it always will!
  • Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades.
  • Empirical evidence that dates back billions of years shows naturally occurring climatological changes on this planet that dwarf any currently predicted global warming effects – the age of the dinosaurs saw a very warm global climate, while there were several ice ages here on earth.
  • The impact today of human activity on global climate appears to be comparable to the natural variability of the climate system itself.
  • Human influences on the global climate are physically small - on the order of 1% - in relation to the climate system as a whole.
  • We have a very poor understanding of the oceans, which change over decades and centuries. They hold most of the climate's heat and strongly influence the atmosphere. Comprehensive observations of the oceans have become available only in the past few decades and we do not yet adequately understand how the oceans will change and how that will affect climate.
  • There is no unanimity in the scientific community that global warming is real.
  • Climate models that are designed to predict climate changes have yet to be proven accurate.
  • Deficiencies in computer models of the climate seriously erode confidence in the computer projections.
  • Predictions of the effects of man-made gaseous emissions on global climate are subject to question.
  • Most predictions of adverse climate change using historical data are highly questionable since historical climatological data only exists for the past few centuries.
  • Climate science is not yet mature enough to determine the impact of human influence on the climate.
  • It is yet to be determined if global warming would be beneficial or harmful to human life here on earth. Would less severe winters be a bad thing for much of the globe?
  • The case for human-induced Global Warming can be just as easily made as the case against man-induced Global Warming and either position can be backed up reams of so-called “undisputable scientific evidence.
     Before we take actions that we may later regret, we need to resolve the scientific issues that still are not fully understood, still in dispute, and which remain open to sometimes highly biased interpretation. Any serious discussion of humans changing the global climate should start with an acknowledgement of the uncertainties in the current state of climatologiical science, especially in projecting the future. The scientific community has yet to reach unanimity on this matter!

     Even if there really is global warming occurring, and, even if man is the cause of this global warming, corrective actions must be well thought out and must take into account more than just ecological and environmental considerations.

     Irrespective of the actual facts about Global Warming, the law of unintended consequences remains in effect!

  1.  Is Human Activity Primarily Responsible for Global Climate Change?,, Accessed 8 July 2015.
  2.  Global warming controversy, ScienceDaily, Accessed 8 July 2015.
  3.  Let's be honest – the global warming debate isn't about science, Dana Nuccitelli, theguardian, 4 October 2013.
  4.  Climate change: How do we know?, NASA, Updated 8 July 2015.
  5.  Scientists demonstrate more fallacies of ‘manmade global warming’, James H. "Smokey" Shott,
      Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 9 June 2015.
  6.  Supreme Court rules against EPA on pollution rules, John Siciliano, Washington Examiner, 29 June 2015.
  7.  Obama Cuts Climate Deal With China , Michael Reagan, reaganreports, 13 November 2014.
  8.  Boehner, Republicans Blast Surprise Obama-China Climate Deal, Newsmax, 13 November 2014.
  9.  Climate change in the past, Natural History Museum, Accessed 8 July 2015.
10.  General Overview of the Ice Ages, Earthguide: University of California, San Diego, Accessed 8 July 2015.
11.  Nobel Laureate Says Obama's 'Dead Wrong' on Global Warming, Melanie Batley, Newsmax, 7 July 2015.

  13 July 2015 {Article 227; Whatever_43 }    
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