the author can be contacted at dave@cultureandreligion
The theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is simply: the increasing amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by human manufacturing, transportation and heating activities is causing increasing temperatures around the globe. This theory became popular at the end of the 20th century. In the 60′s and 70′s, the world saw lower temperatures than in earlier decades so there was widespread concern of a coming ice age. The subsequent decades saw the trend flip to higher temperatures than before, hence the fertile ground for the AGW theory. By making the calculation based on extending the recent trends, seen over only the past couple of decades, to span over the next century, extreme high temperatures are predicted for the year 2100 (even though historically the temperatures tend to alternate between highs and lows).
The above simple description implies this could be just a scientific debate about global temperature trends. Weather and climate (where climate is simply weather trends over decades) are not well understood. There are theories about how the energy from the sun heats the oceans (covering 71% of the globe) which stores and releases that energy in periodic cycles. The sun also heats the atmosphere but there is substantially more energy stored in the oceanic water than in the less dense air. The atmosphere is somewhat an insulating blanket that slowly dissipates energy into space. As scientists add more data gathering instruments around the world and in satellites, the technology will assist in better understanding.
Unfortunately this situation degraded into a religion. The religion of AGW consists of the keepers of the ‘truth’ which is the scientific data that supports this belief. Fortunately for the religion but unfortunately for humanity, the keepers hold power within the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC. This panel is supported by climate scientists at NASA, including the Goddard Institute for Space Studies or GISS and at Great Britain’s University of East Anglia’s Hadley Cimatic Research Unit. These scientific bodies manage the world’s temperature records for the IPCC. Dr James Hansen heads the GISS facility in New York City and has been quite vocal about AGW, including such statements like coal-fired power plants are factories of death and trains carrying coal are death trains. (His comment in The Observer)
The durability of any religion is certainly related to the enthusiasm of its believers. The religion of AGW certainly has that. Many people are quite aware of the dangers of pollution where it affects the health of everything in the ecosystem. Proponents of AGW have taken advantage of that awareness by calling CO2 another measurable type of dangerous pollution, to imply CO2 is toxic like unsafe chemicals found in industrial waste. Unfortunately, CO2 is critical to all plant life in the ecosystem (where CO2 and H20 are chemically bound during photosynthesis to form carbohydrates, the basis of earth’s life forms) and is also a generated by the respiration cycle in all animal life (that inhale oxygen and exhale CO2). Declaring CO2 is pollution that must be tightly controlled implies all animal life is a threat to the earth!
This would appear to be a situation easily resolved by a rational scientific discussion. Unfortunately, the religion aspect took over with AGW. Any religion is characterized by the ‘us versus them’ situation, where the believers are aware of the truth and the non-believers either have not learned of the truth or they consciously deny it. The religion of AGW latched onto the ‘denier’ epithet, to intentionally imply that deniers of AGW are just like those irrational people that deny there was ever a Holocaust (the deliberate attempt by the Nazis to murder all the Jews in the German controlled lands).
The believers also extended the concept of ‘deniers’ further by declaring that a scientist arguing against AGW must be under the pay of the energy industry companies, just like the infamous scientists under the pay of tobacco companies that denied smoking cigarettes had health dangers. I find it so astounding to visit an AGW blog and find so many commenters that will dismiss any submitted counterpoint as coming from someone paid by an oil company, without ever even considering the point being made! Who is the denier in this case?
The religion of AGW has the keepers of its truth and its fervent believers. The declaration ‘the science is settled’ was possible because the keepers worked together as a cabal to keep opposing scientific articles out of major publications; they also used their positions of authority to even have some opponents dismissed from their positions. (This mafia-like behavior lead some opponents to wait until their retirement before voicing their opposition.) The infamous ‘climategate’ scandal in late 2009 revealed this to the world. Anyone that attempted to argue the science was dismissed out of hand, without ever having to address any of their scientific arguments.
The natural climate cycles are turning, a circumstance causing difficulty for AGW. The Pacific Ocean (the largest ocean) appears to have a roughly 60 year cycle, with the 30 years in a cold phase during the 50s to 70s followed by the 30 years in a subsequent warm phase. The cycle has recently returned to its cold phase and now global temperatures appear to be in cooling trend. The theory of AGW must contend with natural climatic cycles.
Ten years ago, AGW believers were declaring that with global warming snow would become a memory. Now that there has been several consecutive cold winters (2009-10, 2010-11) we are told that global warming can still cause blizzards. Over the past few years, we have been told that global warming can actually cause just about everything, from warm to cold, from heavy rains to droughts.
I assume this religion of AGW will be dismissed eventually in the next few years, just as the new ice age fears were eventually dismissed in the 1980′s. However, since weather always has its ups and downs, the debate before that conclusion is achieved will probably be more emotional than rational.
Results of analysis by the author
For personal enlightenment (to learn more about climate) I downloaded the temperature data from GISS and did my own analysis of the data. I looked at temperature trends in the United States and around the world. I tried for a fair distribution in the US picking more locations in the larger states, so a regional average could be calculated (somewhat: so many square miles per location, affected by the states in each region since the Northeast is mostly small states while the West is mostly large states). The many graphs (50 states within four regions in the USA, 16 regions in the world; annual termperature data; 10-year average data; solar cycle analysis; far too many to include here) can be seen on several web pages after Religion of AGW.
One immediate observation is the temperatures at locations around the world had notable warm and cool periods before 1980 when the CO2 level began increasing its annual change near the end of the 20th Century. The theory of AGW has two significant questions to answer:
1) Why is CO2 assumed to cause only the most recent warming trend but not any earlier warming trends? Of course the cooling trend in the 1960’s and 1970’s (the ice age scare before the warming dispelled that nonsense) is just ignored and the recent consecutive winters in the Northern Hemisphere indicate a cooling trend has returned but so far that new trend has just been denied.
2) How much impact will a program of reductions of man-caused CO2 have since man-caused CO2 is a very small portion?
Both questions are avoided. Whatever debate there is only centers on events that are weather related and then there is a leap of faith that global warming was involved and so CO2 must be reduced to prevent the event from happening again.
The second question seems irrelevant to the debate, without a good reason. The political emphasis is on major governmental controls of the economy and for that goal CO2 just serves as the justification. Immediate action is justified on the basis of an imminent tipping point, at which point it will be too late to recover a safe world, and it is better to act than to wait and be too late. However, this imminent tipping point has been claimed to be only a few years away for the past 20 years! The alternative is to have the rational scientific debate (how long should that really take?) bringing together all the data so as to make sure drastic actions are required, but that necessary debate is shunned while the perceived call to action is the priority. One significant problem is the temperature record has been manipulated (The past is not what it used to be) and so the start of any debate confronts a controversial agreement on which data records can be agreed upon for the debate.
The simple analysis shows there is more to the world’s climate than just carbon dioxide, a gas that takes up less than 400 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere. Water is universally recognized as the significant greenhouse gas with CO2 less important. There is never a debate on reducing water in the atmosphere. Successfully reducing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere could be catastrophic for plant life since at least 150 ppm is required to sustain that life – but that is just another piece of information missing from the fear mongering rhetoric about CO2 levels. In fact, increasing CO2 levels is beneficial to plant life (greenhouse managers sometimes increase the CO2 levels to enhance plant health and growth).
The web has many detailed, thorough analyses of the world’s climate. There is a Global Warming Petition Project, signed by over 31000 American scientists rejecting the theory of AGW.