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Global Cooling!, 18 Aug, 2005 by Fintan Dunne, Editor

The Earth's climate is your responsibility too, so buy a gas-guzzling SUV, burn plenty of fossil fuels; and keep asking yourself are you doing enough to keep global cooling at bay?

Because, the incessant hype over 'global warming' may turn out to be a dreadful mistake, if some scientists' more long term assessments of climate change proves right.

They say that without the presence of greenhouse gasses over the last 8,000 years we might already be well on the way to another mini-ice age.

A sudy by William Ruddiman, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences and his team at the University of Virginia Charlottesville, Virginia has shown that if ancient agriculturists had not systematically cleared forests, planted crops and raised domesticated herds, global temperatures today would be an average of two degrees centigrade lower.

And you thought that greenhouse gasses were at issue only in the recent industrial era? You've been misled. The relentless focus on modern fossil fuels ignores the dramatic climatic effect of the forest clearances and other effects since the dawn of mass agriculture around 8,000 years ago.


Modern climatology has assumed that the relatively recent increases in greenhouse gasses were driving up temperatures which were otherwise historically stable.

But the latest research confirms that without ancient greenhouse gasses, a decreasing level of solar radiation driven by Earth-orbital changes would have caused global temperatures to plunge.

Professor Ruddiman's study, published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews reports
a test of this hypothesis using the GENESIS global climate computer model.

When the scientists reduced atmospheric carbon-dioxide and methane to their estimated ‘natural’ levels --without the greenhouse contribution by early agriculturists-- the model showed a current global climate: "almost 2C cooler than today and roughly one third of the way toward full glacial temperatures."

Since the dawn of civilization, we have been burning wood to cook food and keep warm. That adds up to a lot of campfires and a lot of CO2. Much more of the warming gas came from forest burning in Eurasia 8,000 years ago. Factor in the introduction of livestock and rice irrigation by 5,000 years ago and we have mass sources of methane, another greenhouse gas.

The combination seeded the atmosphere with about 40 parts per million of carbon dioxide and 250 parts per billion of methane. That was enough to produce nearly 0.8 °C of warming before 1700, when industrialization began. Since then, our modern greenhouse contribution is reckoned to have added an equivalent warming effect.


Instead of focussing on the last 350 years, research should take a less myopic scope and encompass Earth's solar rotation cycles over the last 350,000 years.

Ice cores show that decreases in summer sunshine caused by these great cyclical changes in Earth's orbit have caused levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the air to fall in tandem. But the pattern changes 8000 years ago. "Both gases followed the expected trend for a while but then went up instead of down," says Ruddiman.

Without that trend-breaking change, glaciers would have already been forming over north-eastern Canada about 4000 years ago, the latest climate modeling shows. And there are some interesting CO2 variations in more recent times.

The conventional assumption is that a centuries-long mini-ice age beginning around 1300 caused the significant disease outbreaks and population drops historians know took place around that time.

Ruddiman turns that idea on its head. He proposes the bubonic plague pandemics in Eurasia did not follow the fall in temperature, rather they caused it. Disease had so depleted the population that resurgent wild vegetation soon began to draw CO2 from the atmosphere and lock it up in biomass. Temperatures soon fell. They only recovered when agriculture flourished once again.


Reaction to the overdue glaciation hypothesis has been varied. Geochemist Jeff Severinghaus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, called the idea "very speculative." "I doubt that ancient humans could have done that," he says.

Yet the ice cores show that regardless of cause, something was clearly going on. "It's absolutely worth following up," said Pennsylvania State University glaciologist Richard Alley.

Dr Benny Peiser of John Moores University, Liverpool is a strong proponent of the new thinking. "Instead of driving us to the brink of disaster," he says, "human intervention will be seen as vital activities that have unintentionally delayed the onset of a catastrophic ice age."

Amid modern fears that so-called "global warming" could potentially destroy our civilization, Dr Peiser has studied factors that have contributed to the collapse of urban civilizations. The fall of the Akkadian era, and the demise of the Hittites, Mycenaeans, Mayans and even the Roman Empire were triggered by climate change --but not the kind you might think.

Dr Peiser told the 2003 annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society that "none of the known cases of civilization collapse has ever been linked to episodes of global warming, but many are thought to have happened during climatic downturns."

"Warmer temperatures... have never contributed to the decline or disintegration of any society, but have been mostly advantageous," said Dr Peiser.


Here's an example from the UK Independent of typical alarmist reporting with a very misleading headline: Global warming is 'twice as bad as previously thought'

You might get the impression that this means 'global warming is right now twice as bad as expected. Wrong. It's all hype:

"Global warming might be twice as catastrophic as previously thought, the world's biggest study of climate change shows. Researchers from some of Britain's leading universities used computer modelling to predict that under the "worst-case" scenario, London would be under water and winters banished to history as average temperatures in the UK soar up to 20C higher than at present."

So, it's a worst-case prediction, not a current anlysis. Retitle that headline, please:
"Global warming MIGHT IN FUTURE be 'twice as bad as previously thought' IF THINGS REALLY GO BAD."

The 'global warming' skeptics base their questions on actual ice core analysis. Ice cores which unquestionably show solar radiation versus greenhouse gas anomalies. By comparison, the global warming alarmists use models to make dire predictions.

Those models rely on current warming estimates are likely skewed by overreliance on ground based temperature recordings --often compromized by the proximity of nearby relatively warm cities. Furthermore, not all layers of the athmosphere are showing this claimed current heating.

"Global Warming," has many of the hallmarks of an elite-inspired "global crisis" needing the kind of sweeping "global action" that politicians love. They can, and do, relentlessly hijack such issues to remind us all of their "global" importance. But that is a story for another day.

Meanwhile, let's get on with the science. Without the hype.

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