Friday, July 11, 2014

Why the former Ice Age became global warming, then climate change

July 7, 2014

Image: from the film 'The Day After Tomorrow'

On June 23, the Supreme Court laid down a small speed bump on the highway leading from "carbon pollution" control to climate nirvana.
Yet there is still much bluster from the Obama administration and one of its political enforcers, the Environmental Protection Agency, on the "certainty" of human-caused climate change and the urgency of saving the earth from prosperous people and cheap energy.
Of the high court's ruling, Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, said her agency is "very pleased with the decision." So hold on to your wallets.
But, how certain are predictions of climate change? Well, like the climate itself, the hypothesis of man-made climate change cycles through history.
Take recent history for example. In the 1970s, the hypothesis was that the globe was potentially headed for the next ice age.
I know this not only because of pronouncements from popular press at the time, but also because, as an undergraduate student at one of the top schools of meteorology, Penn State University, the buzz I heard was that the global climate was moving toward seriously colder conditions.
To substantiate this claim, professors referenced not only recent climate trends and observations but also the work of respected scientists, such as astrophysicist Milutin Milankovitch, who had investigated long-term climate cycles.
According to the “Milankovitch Theory,” which is based on cyclical variations of the Earth’s orbit around the sun, the globe was heading for some big-time icy changes.
Even outside the college campus, the culture was primed for the next ice age, as evidenced by a Christian tract by Walter Lang and Vic Lockman.
The pamphlet asked in its title, "Need we fear another Ice Age?" And Leonard Nimoy courageously trekked "in search of the coming Ice Age" on television.
Of course, technological fixes were proposed, like adding coal dust to the surface of advancing glaciers so that the encroaching ice would absorb more solar energy and melt away.
Yet what a difference a few decades make.
Today, it is fashionable to expect disaster from too much warmth. So the smart money is on promoting dire predictions and consequences of rising thermometers, even in the face of no global warming for more than 15 years.
From my own 35 years of experience in the atmospheric science profession as an air-pollution meteorologist, air quality program administrator and science educator, I can attest the fact that long-range, global climate-change outlooks are nothing but insular professional opinion.
Such opinion is not worthy of the investment of billions of dollars to avoid the supposed catastrophic consequences of abundant, inexpensive fossil fuels and, subsequently, to impoverish U.S. citizens with skyrocket energy costs.
I have conducted or overseen a hundred air-quality studies, many using sophisticated atmospheric modeling.
Such modeling — comparable to or even involving the same models as those used in climate modeling — produced results for relatively short-term, local areas that, although helpful to understanding air quality impact issues, were far from being able to bet billions of taxpayer dollars on.
Yet similar climate models that imagine conditions for the entire globe for decades into the future are used to do just that — bet billions of taxpayer dollars.
Bottom line, nobody can detail with any billion-dollar-spending degree of confidence what the global climate will be like decades from now.
But, it’s easy to predict that, given enough monetary incentive and the chance to be at the pinnacle of popularity, some climate prognosticators — and certainly every capitalizing politician — will continue to proffer convincing climate claims to an unwary public.
Anthony J. Sadar is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and author of In Global Warming We Trust: A Heretic's Guide to Climate Science (Telescope Books, 2012).
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