Climate Change: A Summary of the Science
The climate change science is settled, but not how the climate alarmists want you to think.
1. Carbon is one of the three basic elements, along with hydrogen and oxygen, necessary to all life on Earth. Organic chemistry is defined as the study of substances containing carbon, and most of the dry mass of the human body mass is carbon.
2. Humans and animals release (or “emit”) carbon dioxide (CO2) when we breathe. Plants absorb this released CO2 and convert it into biomass through photosynthesis. In turn, humans and animals consume plant biomass; this is called the biological carbon cycle. Between 5% and 10% of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions come from human breath. (And the rest comes from the “supply chain” – mostly activities supporting human breath and life.)
3. Human activities, including agriculture, industry, transportation, and construction, release CO2 and increase its concentration in the atmosphere. Currently, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is slightly above 400 ppm (parts per million), about 45% above the level when the world population was below one billion (the so called pre-industrial time). The world population is more than seven billion souls today.
4. CO2 is plant food, not a pollutant. This is why farmers enrich the atmosphere in their greenhouses by adding CO2 to achieve typical concentrations of 1,000 – 2,000 ppm. The air inside of a greenhouse is warmer than the ambient air because the roof and walls of the greenhouse prevent convection (i.e., the warm air inside the greenhouse is not allowed to raise). CO2 in a greenhouse does NOT warm it. “Greenhouse gas” is a misnomer.
5. An elevated CO2 concentration in the atmosphere accelerates growth and improves yields of agricultural crops. Approximately 15% of the world’s agricultural production comes from the elevated CO2 concentration. Wild ecosystems, both terrestrial and marine, benefit from the same effect. Elevated CO2 also tends to decrease crops water demand. These universal benefits are significant, even in the absence of special accommodations. This is also the only known significant effect of man-made global climate change, both now and in the foreseeable future.
6. These benefits of increased levels of CO2 on human food production should be amplified, not mitigated. This amplification may include the optimization of agricultural processes to take advantage of increasing levels of CO2.
It is reasonable to assume that American and European farmers continually optimize their practices to meet changing market and climate conditions. But many poor countries probably still use crops and agricultural techniques developed by Norman Borlaug in the 1960s. CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased by some 25% since then. Without proper amplification, the benefits of climate change to agriculture and food security will be limited. Currently, the only useful action on climate change is to tell the farmers in the developing world about the benefits of anthropogenic CO2 release.
7. Higher CO2 concentrations in atmosphere do warm the surface, but only insignificantly. Good understanding of the infrared light absorption became possible only through quantum and relativity theories. All gases that have molecules with at least three atoms absorb infrared light in some bands. The bands for atmospheric CO2 are almost saturated. Thus, infrared energy absorption by CO2 depends on its concentration in atmosphere only logarithmically, which is a very weak dependence.
8. Humanity does influence local, regional, and even global climate, but not in the ways climate alarmists claim. The most important global influence seems to be positive carbon dioxide enrichment, as described above. Human influence on the global temperature is relatively small, and anthropogenic CO2 probably contributes less than a half of it. Other warming factors include methane, airborne soot, soot deposition on ice and snow and fluorocarbons (CFC & HFC). Most of the anthropogenic methane is emitted from rice cultivation and cattle raising in developing countries and China. Soot is emitted by developing countries and China. All told, the USA and other Western countries contribute less than one-third of anthropogenic CO2 release.
9. Climates change, and have always been changing. Over the last 150 years the global surface temperature has increased by only about 0.8 ˚C (1.4 ˚F). The leading causes of the global surface temperature change were solar variation and other natural processes. Human contribution was a relatively minor factor.
10. Anthropogenic global warming (from all factors and countries) is very small and slow. The estimates vary, but the most reliable estimate is about 0.01˚C (<0.02 ˚F) per year. Even multiplying this number out of an abundance of caution would result in temperature increase of less than 0.03˚C (0.05 ˚F) per year. For comparison, typical intra-day temperature variations in the US are 10˚C (18˚ F). This negligible warming should be compared with the speed of societal changes. In the same time that the global temperature theoretically increases by 0.02 ˚F, the government debt increases $1.2 trillion ($1,200,000,000,000). The average surface temperature have not increased over the last 19 years (so called hiatus).
Projections of climate changes and their impacts on societies 85 years from now have no foundation in science. At best, they are mockery of religious prophecies or eschatology; at worst, they are a fraud.
11. Expected global warming trend is mostly beneficial, although the benefits will be small and arrive slowly, just like the temperature changes. Humans prefer warmer climates to colder ones. Have you ever gone on vacation to a colder place? Provided with water, food, shadow and nothing else, humans can live in the hottest places on Earth. Provided with water, food and clothes, unsheltered persons die from cold within few winter days even in a moderate climate (think Paris). In many colder places unsheltered persons die within hours rather than days.
Life on Earth can exist in all conditions at which salt water remains liquid. This is usually -4˚C to 100˚C (25˚F to 212˚F). Nowhere on the Earth surface the temperature approaches the higher boundary, but in a large part of the Northern Hemisphere the temperature drops below lower boundary. (Simple life forms can survive outside of these boundaries, and warm-blooded animals can live in below freezing conditions maintaining their body temperature through metabolism, to be accurate). On planet Earth, warmer is usually better.
Further, the weather is expected to become milder in the process of global warming. Most of the warming is predicted to happen in the cold northern areas, nighttime temperatures are likely to increase more than daytime temperatures, fewer droughts and hurricanes can be expected. Anticipated temperature increase at high latitudes will open up more lands for agriculture, increasing global food production and thus benefiting the world’s poorest peoples. Given the low rate of potential temperature increase, societies and ecosystems are expected to adapt effortlessly.
12. The global sea level has been rising since the last glacial episode 20,000 years ago, mostly because of melting glacial ice, including ice in Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Surface warming from natural and anthropogenic factors may increase or decrease the rate of sea level rising, but only slightly. Increased evaporation from the ocean and deposition in the Antarctic decrease the rising rate, while thermal expansion increases them. In any case, the anthropogenic impact on the sea level rising is very small, within ±1.5 mm. Current rate of the sea level rise is 2-3 mm per year, and anthropogenic influence cannot be detected. By comparison, the average rate of the sea level rise in the last 15,000 years was about 7 mm per year. Local apparent sea levels may be more affected by tectonic processes than by global sea level changes.
13. Claims of “ocean acidification” are outright lies. The ocean is not acidic and is not becoming acidic. The ocean is alkaline, which is the opposite of acidic. A chemistry textbook example: soap is alkaline, while orange juice is acidic.
14. In the past, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were more than 10 times higher than they are today. Over millions of years, the Earth’s atmosphere became impoverished in CO2, probably through biomass sinking and its conversion into coal and hydrocarbons. By burning fossil fuels, we simply restore a more natural atmosphere composition. The global temperatures have been higher than they are today many times in the last 10,000 years and in the last 100 million years. There were times when North and South poles were not covered by ice.
15. Future increases of atmospheric CO2 concentration are reversible. The ocean and the biosphere are natural sinks for excess CO2. Additionally, schemes for artificial removal of CO2 from the atmosphere have been proposed, but given the benefits outlined above, why would anybody want to remove CO2?
16. Climates and ecosystems are changing and have always been changing. In the last hundred years or so, our ability to measure and record weather parameters and natural events has been improving rapidly. Accordingly, we acquired the ability to notice changes that were happening but went unnoticed for thousands of years. That does not mean that these changes have just started to happen.
17. Anthropogenic release of CO2 does NOT increase frequency, probability or intensity of extreme events. Media claims like “climate change causes/contributes to hurricanes/floods/droughts/whatever” contradict actual observations. Such claims are lies, loosely based on ignorance of self-appointed “climate scientists”. Some of their fallacies are: confusion between exergy and energy, between relative and absolute humidity, failure to use moving average, and accepting artifacts of incorrect computer models as scientific results. (This paragraph addresses the essence of such claims. Obviously, such claims are also formally incorrect: “climate change” cannot cause weather events by definition; other way around – statistically significant change in weather averages indicate climate change).
Natural disasters have always happened and will keep happening, and some of them will be of unprecedented severity; however, the anthropogenic release of CO2 has nothing to do with it. The reporting of natural disasters has improved lately, and the damage from natural disasters has increased because of increases in population and wealth. There have also been significant changes in how damages are appraised, causing an increase in insurance premiums for the same physical damage.
There are many examples of local and regional weather events caused by local and regional human activity. For example, modern cities have elevated temperatures compared to the surrounding rural areas. Some agricultural practices cause dust storms and droughts in large regions. Water mismanagement and increases in the local population contribute to droughts. Certain logging restrictions increase the probability of wildfires. Airborne pollution (not CO2) is carried by winds from Asian countries to North America. These are not results of global climate change.
18. Today, humanity is capable of inadvertently changing the Earth’s atmosphere and global climate through ordinary economic activity, especially agriculture. Thus, researching the “climate system” and monitoring changes in atmosphere, oceans and biosphere are important. But anthropogenic CO2 release is strongly beneficial rather than harmful.
There are potential global risks from natural change. One of the less appreciated risks is possibility of sharp change in solar activity. It is well known that Sun is very unusual star, exhibiting much less variation than known similar stars. If Sun starts behaving even slightly more like other stars, even for few decades (a period that might be not reflected in the geological record), the impact on Earth would be catastrophic for humanity. Solar variation is amplified by positive feedback in the Earth atmosphere.
19. Existing uncertainties do not change the above conclusions. Some of the uncertainties are inherent in the subject. For example, there is nothing certain about the future. But the word “uncertainties” also appears in a straw man argument used by alarmists.
In fact, most uncertainties in the alarmist pseudo-science are internal contradictions and consequences of its shoddy practices: cherry picking data, making conclusions based on statistically insignificant observations, declaring trends based on variations that are within error margins, relying on computer models that contradict principles of the information theory, forging forecasts for unreasonably long time periods, etc. Climate alarmism is also known for incompetent and outright fraudulent research, including raw data fabrication.
Neutral and skeptical scientists frequently used the word “uncertainties” out of politeness, when referring to dubious methods and errors in the works of practitioners, associated with alarmism. And our knowledge is incomplete because alarmists have been suppressing scientific research, contradicting their allegations, since 1988.
20. Of all potential global dangers conceivably related to human activity, nothing has been studied better and found more harmless than anthropogenic CO2 release.