Yes, atmospheric CO2 is rising. In fact, it has been rising for the past eight thousand years, ever since man started clearing the forests for farming. Air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice cores display man's impact on the composition of air. ["How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?" W. F. Ruddiman, Sci. Am., March 2005, 46.] |
Yes, atmospheric CO2 has been rising faster in the last two hundred years. That parallels an exploding human population, accelerated deforestation of the tropics, and increased burning of fuels. It's not just fossil fuels. Our ancestors didn't just sit home shivering in the dark waiting for the discovery of petroleum; they burned everything from wood to whale blubber. They all released CO2.
Yes, atmospheric temperatures seem to be rising. Global warming may be upon us. Global warming is just the high part of our normal climate cycle. This isn't the first period of global warming. History reports two earlier episodes: the most recent ran from the ninth to the fourteenth century AD. The one before that ran from the third century BCE to the third century AD. There may have been earlier ones, but the data are a little fuzzy that far back. The effects of both global warming periods were profound. Roman civilization blossomed during the first. Europe prospered during the second, but the Americas suffered. ["The great warming: climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations," Brian Fagan, Bloomsbury, (New York, 2008)] No one knows what the next one will hold.
Atmospheric CO2 rose before and during the last two global warming periods. But CO2 didn't cause them. CO2 continued to rise steadily through the mini Ice Ages between them. Global temperatures are not correlated with CO2 levels over recent millennia.
Greenhouse gases didn't cause the last two global warmings, and they won't cause the next one. Greenhouse gases are only one minor factor in global warming. The climate is more complicated than that. ["The deniers: the world renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud and those who are too fearful to do so," Lawrence Solomon, Richard Vigilante Books, (Minneapolis, 2008)] Geological factors like the precession of the planet's poles and the cycles of the sun have greater effects on the weather.
Rash restrictions on CO2 will not prevent or even delay global warming. They will not even reverse its atmospheric build up. The ocean holds fifty times as much CO2 as the atmosphere, and there's more in the soil. Both would outgas to maintain current levels for generations to come.
Rash restrictions on CO2 will stifle our economy and threaten our standard of living, but they won't do a thing about the weather. Let's not overreact to CO2.
Woodrow Wilson is a Caltech PhD chemist. He discovered and characterized a metastable state of ozone. He has also assessed other aspects of atmospheric chemistry affecting the resilience of the ozone layer. Wilson is a Toastmaster, an author and a cook. He has recently published The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook. Visit http://www.woodrow-wilson.com for more information on his science and his writing.
Related Articles -
environment, global warming, greenhouse gases,