Monday, November 10, 2008

Hey wait, the earth is cooling...

I have heard a few arguments for global cooling of late.

This is a huge issue because, for example, President Obama may propose a far-reaching cap-and-trade system for CO2. While any opposing theory deserves consideration, "global cooling" discussions should not become another excuse for inertia unless the evidence is extremely strong and a scientific consensus forms around it, because the stakes are too high for future generations.

First, all short-term anecdotal evidence, such as glaciation in Alaska, should be thrown out, because one or two years is just a nanosecond in geological time.

You can just as easily find anecdotal evidence for continued warming in other regions.
Tell the Australians that their continent is "cooling off," or the people in southern California or Arizona, whose forested regions are often on fire. There are a lot of villages in Alaska where the permafrost is melting, causing their abandonment.
I've visited a glacier in Switzerland for the last 15 years (it has lost 30 percent of its mass since the 1970s), and it added snow last year, but that doesn't mean that "phew, global warming must be over."

"Global weirding" I've heard is a much better term for what's happening.

In addition, weather patterns are heavily affected by the growth of algae in the seas (algae is an important CO2 sink, and is critical for the formation of reflective clouds because it generates the cloud-seeding precursor chemical dimethyl sulfide).
The upper layer of the oceans has warmed over the decades, creating vast "deserts" where algae plumes used to flourish. Some scientists have concluded that runaway global heating can occur partly because of this massive algae destruction. See James Lovelock's "The Revenge Of Gaia."

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