Humans have the power to change Earth’s climate. Yes, it’s true. That we could, question is: Why in the world would we even want to?
I’ve looked at the climate change idea – and global warming too – from numerous sides, meaning, I had to first decide whether they were, in fact, real. Once I was finally convinced they were, next I needed to determine if the phenomena were due to natural factors, human intervention or some combination of both. After weighing or considering what supporting evidence I had found, I concluded both played a role.
With this in mind, here’s the kicker: what percent influence on climate change/global warming does each have? I will relate more on this in a bit.
For the record
Historical records going back some 800,000 years seem to indicate a world toggling between hot and cold states: The former otherwise referred to as “hothouse;” the latter also known as “icehouse” states. For the record, an entire cycle, one that includes a hothouse and icehouse state, lasts a total of about 100,000 years. (If inclined, one may wish to learn more by checking into what is referred to as the Milankovitch Cycles. Milankovitch provided one possible and reasonable explanation for this).
So, along with the alternating hot and cold states, is a coupled rise and fall, respectively, in what’s commonly called global mean surface temperature (GMST). Ice core sample data going that far back, meanwhile, also reveal that within each cycle there is a corresponding jump and decline in the level of atmospheric CO2 and CH4 – carbon dioxide and methane. Furthermore, what’s also known related to associated temperature rise and fall is warming is far more accelerated, whereas planet cooling is much more gradual.
Though it is only a theory as far as I am aware, possibly accounting for this difference is a corresponding change in atmospheric CO2 and CH4 concentration prompting an associated change in GMST. That explanation would appear to be a reasonable one also.
Something else to keep in mind: Forces or events such as volcanic eruptions, depending on magnitude and what gases are released into the atmosphere as a result, this can as well effect surface-temperature changes.
Just looking at eruption-spewed CO2, if in large-enough quantity and pervasive enough and remaining in the atmosphere over a considerable amount of time, it is thought that such aloft gas in trapping and retaining the sun’s radiation would heat the planet, this provided airborne volcanic dust and/or ash itself doesn’t prevent sunlight from reaching the planet, such a situation resulting in a planet cool-down, it quite possibly triggering an ice age or icehouse event.
Ten-thousand years ago or thereabouts is when the last ice age ended. The time between ice ages is known as “interglacials.” During the glacials and interglacials, this was a time of climate and temperature instability, obviously. However, between present day basically and the last glacials’ end, this period, for the most part, was a relatively stable one. I say “was.”
But, based on historical trending data dating back 800,000 years, the earth right now should be in a cooling off or cooling down phase. Though, strangely, that’s not what’s occurring. In fact, for the last 150 years or so, not only has the average temperature at the earth’s surface not been falling and doing just the opposite, the rate of rise is faster in the last 50 years than it’s has been in recorded history; 0.8 degrees Celsius (C) (about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F), just in the last half-century span alone. Total temperature increase since roughly 1850, 1.2 degrees C (2 degrees F). We’ve witnessed that increase’s physical effects.
So now a contemplative point: With this degree of warming, are we to leave things well enough alone or call for mitigating action in the form of, well, temperature and/or climate control? What do you think?!
In responding to this, on the one hand there is the fear among many that if left alone and current conditions don’t somehow abate on their own and in a compressed-enough timeframe, a tipping point regarding what has been an ongoing rise in GMST will be reached and exceeded, from which there will be no recovery – runaway temperature and/or climate in other words. That’s what many believe.
On the flip side, if humans try to intervene by pursuing net-zero or net-negative carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions with CO2 in the atmosphere, according to what I understand, lasting as much as hundreds of years, and therefore enabling current average atmospheric temperatures to, as it were, keep on keeping on, even if able to successfully remove vast CO2 quantities from the air (we’re talking on the order of tens of billions of tons of it yearly) and in relatively short order (a tall task to achieve), won’t the surface temp continue to rise for quite some time to come still?
Not exactly on the flip side of that but as an adjunct, say humans had the capability to attain net-zero or net-negative airborne carbon dioxide emissions, who decides and how does it get decided how far below the net-zero threshold to go? Too far below carbon net-zero and air temperature could go too far in the negative direction with an ice age ensuing. Another important point would be where the happy medium would be, meaning, temperature and/or climate stabilization being reached.
Or, finally, do we just leave all of this for Mother Nature to resolve, the thinking here being those hot/cold cycles that have been trending for 790,000 years at least, they will resume?
Deep down inside, I firmly believe that it should be definitively determined how much of the current warming is due to natural forces or factors and what part is due to us, and then to respond accordingly. At least, this way in terms of remedying the situation – call that an imbalance if you must – all of the guesswork that way will be taken out of the equation. That’s what I say.
– Alan Kandel