Doomed? Saving ourselves? Mother Nature’s Suicide?

Another alarmist report (via Slashdot) on the global climate is on its way. I always find these reports humorous. Let’s look at a few things in this coming report. First, who is it drafted by? It’s drafted by “a task force of senior politicians, business leaders and academics from around the world.” Where are the scientists? Maybe that’s who the “academics” are, but that’s not obvious. More on what some scientists are saying in just a bit. So, we have some politicians and business types who are forecasting the evironmental doom of the planet. But I thought it was the business leaders who were causing all this pollution? Big ole’ nasty Big Business is thrusting smoke stacks up into the virgin blue sky and spilling out all sorts of nasty gunk. Furthermore, I thought the politicians were in the pocket of Big Business, enabling them to do more damage to the environment. This report must be from an alternate universe.

I guess the obvious answer to my question is the evironment is getting so bad even the Big Business and politicians can no longer ignore it. I mean look at what they’re forecasting:

“Beyond the 2 degrees C level, the risks to human societies and ecosystems grow significantly,” it says.

“It is likely, for example, that average-temperature increases larger than this will entail substantial agricultural losses, greatly increased numbers of people at risk of water shortages, and widespread adverse health impacts. [They] could also imperil a very high proportion of the world’s coral reefs and cause irreversible damage to important terrestrial ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest.”

It goes on: “Above the 2 degrees level, the risks of abrupt, accelerated, or runaway climate change also increase. The possibilities include reaching climatic tipping points leading, for example, to the loss of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets (which, between them, could raise sea level more than 10 metres over the space of a few centuries), the shutdown of the thermohaline ocean circulation (and, with it, the Gulf Stream), and the transformation of the planet’s forests and soils from a net sink of carbon to a net source of carbon.”

That’s some scary stuff! Though I do find it humorous that these people are predicting what the weather will be like decades from now when my local weatherman can’t accurately predict what the weather is going to be tomorrow.

But there is a minority report to all of this. This article (via Instapundit) is reporting the findings of actual scientists and climate experts. Here are their conclusions:

Scientists have traditionally viewed the relative stability of the Earth’s climate since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago as being due to natural causes, but there is evidence that changes in solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations should have driven the Earth towards glacial conditions over the last few thousand years.

What stopped it has been the activity of humans, both ancient and modern, argue the scientists.

Ah! Now scientists are reporting we’re saving ourselves with our gas emissions! These scientists believe that signs indicate methane and carbon dioxide levels should be falling right now, but instead they are rising. And what is partly responsible for this rise in greenhouse gases?

The unexpected trends could be explained by massive early deforestation in Eurasia, rice farming in Asia, the introduction of livestock, and the burning of wood and plant material, all of which led to an outpouring of greenhouse emissions.

Hmmm, I see trees being cut down, rice paddies, cows, and “plant material” burning in this list, but where are the SUVs, smokestacks, and Halliburtons?

Regardless, look at what we’ve saved ourselves from:

“In the absence of anthropogenic contributions, global climate is almost 2C cooler than today and roughly one-third of the way toward full glacial temperatures.”

At the peak of the last ice age, which began 70,000 years ago, 97% of Canada was covered by ice.

That’s some pretty scary stuff! Better keep those cows farting and those rice paddies growing or Canada is going to be covered with ice!

And the conclusion to this article is the real kicker:

Anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: “If the research findings are correct, a radical change in the perception of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will be required.

“Instead of driving us to the brink of environmental disaster, human intervention and technology progress will be seen as vital activities that have unintentionally delayed the onset of a catastrophic ice age.”

Yes, you read that right. If this report (by scientists as opposed to politicians and business types) is right, then all of our pollution is saving us. That can’t be right!

But once again, we should turn our eyes to history and learn from the past. I think this article (via Slashdot) is helpful for this exercise.

An ancient version of global warming may have been to blame for the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history.

In an event known as the “Great Dying,” some 250 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine life and nearly three-quarters of land-based plants and animals went extinct.

Scientists have long debated the cause of this calamity — which occurred before the era of dinosaurs — with possibilities including such disasters as meteor impacts.

. . .

Ward’s team believes the extinctions were caused by global warming and oxygen deprivation over long periods of time.

Massive volcanic flows in what is now Siberia brought on the warming while, at the same time, geologic action caused global sea levels to drop, Ward explained in a telephone interview.

That’s some pretty scary stuff! Unfortunately, we can’t do anything to stop volcanoes, and we’re defenseless against asteroids (or are we?). Therefore, we’re screwed.

UPDATE: A freshly posted TCS article also tears apart the new we’re-all-doomed climate report. The author has read the whole report and exposes some embarrassments, some strong biases, and a noticeable absence.

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