Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology > Ice Age Sized Holes in the Case for Anthropogenic Climate Change

Ice Age Sized Holes in the Case for Anthropogenic Climate Change

The belief that human activities, especially of the type seen in industrial and post-industrial societies, are somehow responsible for “global climate change” previously known as “global warming” is an established article of faith among a significant percentage of the population in many countries. Hardly a day goes by without an article in some news outlet, mainstream or otherwise, proclaiming the discovery of yet another piece of evidence for anthropocentric climate change. While the intensity of the rhetoric has diminished somewhat since its last peak in 2006-2008, it is clear that the number of hardcore believers has not diminished.

While I am certainly not the first one to point it out- a lot of the rhetoric and beliefs associated the anthropogenic climate change believers are strikingly similar to traditional guilt-based religions such as Catholicism. Many aspects of this new belief system such as appeals to the authority of “approved” experts, secret knowledge that can only be understood by the initiated, persecution of dissenters or “climate change deniers”, constant talk about the dark and malevolent forces that want to make true believers stray from the righteous path are essentially identical to those seen in other traditional religious and secular belief systems.

However this post is not about how the environmental movement is a secular version of Catholicism- which it is. Instead, I am going to point out one obvious, but seldom discussed, problem with the idea that current levels of human activity are causing significant climate change.

What was responsible for the last few ice ages and the interglacial periods in between them?

As some of you might already know, the last 3 million years have witnessed a series of glacial events separated by interglacial events collectively known as Quaternary glaciation or Pleistocene glaciation. During this time period continental glaciers were repeatedly able to push to (and sometimes below) 40 degrees longitude in many parts of the world, including north america.

In addition, a zone of permafrost stretched southward from the edge of the glacial sheet, a few hundred kilometres in North America, and several hundred in Eurasia. Each glacial advance tied up huge volumes of water in continental ice sheets 1,500 to 3,000 metres (4,900–9,800 ft) thick, resulting in temporary sea level drops of 100 metres (300 ft) or more over the entire surface of the Earth. The effects of glaciation were global. Antarctica was ice-bound throughout the Pleistocene as well as the preceding Pliocene. The Andes were covered in the south by the Patagonian ice cap. There were glaciers in New Zealand and Tasmania. The current decaying glaciers of Mount Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Ruwenzori Range in east and central Africa were larger. Glaciers existed in the mountains of Ethiopia and to the west in the Atlas mountains.

But what does any of this have to do with anthropogenic climate change? Aren’t ice ages and interglacial periods a ‘natural’ phenomena? Didn’t most of them occur before anatomically modern humans evolved?

Well of course they are a ‘natural’ phenomena and that is precisely the problem. It also does not help that industrial civilization, did not exist during any of the ice ages or interglacial periods- other than the interglacial we are currently living in and which started about about 12-15k years ago. So what caused such large and relatively abrupt (on a geological time scale) changes in the earths climate? How do you go from an extended interglacial period of many tens of thousands of years to a fairly sustained glacial period of many tens of thousands of years and then back to another interglacial period?

What factors drove these massive global climate changes and more importantly- are those factors still relevant and active?

You might have heard about the Milankovitch cycles, but even they don’t fully explain the phenomena of Quaternary glaciation. There is also the issue of the various ice ages starting and ending at slightly different times in different parts of the world. For example- the second last glaciation cycle in N. America, the Illinoian (191-130 k years ago), does not run parallel to its equivalent in the British Isles, known as the Wolstonian (325k-130k years ago). While the last ice age started and ended at somewhat similar times throughout the world, it had its own warmer and colder periods– and this was likely the case for the earlier ones too. My point is that even climatic events as large and prolonged as global ice ages do not display high levels of uniformity, stability or predictability.

And this brings us to the fundamental problem with modeling any large, complex, poorly understood and adaptive system. How can you model the primary and secondary effects of slight changes to one parameter (a slight increase in atmospheric CO2 effects) when the dynamics of the underlying system components are poorly understood. Let me explain that with a simpler analogy. Can you confidently measure the effects of drinking an extra cup of tea or coffee per day on a large population, if you did not first have a good understanding of human physiology, society and lifestyles. And would an extra cup of tea or coffee per day have a statistically significant effect that could stand above the noise and fluctuations in the collected data?

So how can you confidently calculate the effect of small changes in one minor parameter on a semi-predictable and ever-changing baseline that is capable of far bigger variations than your cherished effect? To put it another way- can you really measure an effect if the baseline variations are much larger than the said effect?

What do you think? Comments?

  1. angelwanderer
    January 24, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    There is big-business to be made out of climate change no matter the truth. We live in the age of commerce. Modern numans know only two things, to consume, to profit. Understanding climate change is the bait to this form of commerce but understanding how to monetize it is the hook and where we shine best.
    In essence, we don’t need to know about water quality, atmospheric change, past ice ages, etc, because if we were in anyway practical about things we’d already see that we’re devouring the planet unnecessarily. -A

  2. January 24, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Hey AD,

    You talk about how women reward you for bad behavior and punish you for good behavior. Specifically you mention that being vindictive and rude gave you more success than polite/accommodating.

    Something that has crossed my mind is how a man should behave to make it so you reward people around you, men or women, for behavior you like, and “punish” (perhaps I need a less strong word than punish) for behavior you don’t like.

    When someone backstabs you, they will say “you forced me to do it” as a defense – what they really mean is you assumed they wouldn’t backstab you — > and that you were acting in a way that punished him for being faithful and rewarded him for backstabbing you.

    So how do you make it so you never inadvertently reward someone for backstabbing you and inadvertently punish someone for being faithful?

    Am I making sense?

  3. January 24, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Reblogged this on Quixotes Last Stand.

  4. IamMarktoo
    January 25, 2014 at 3:29 am

    You put into words, so well, what I have thought for a long time. I’ve noticed a gradual change in the narrative: global warming –> climate change –> catastrophic weather –> ecocide… Less and less talk about, the very source of all life, carbon dioxide. More and more about consuming the planet “unsustainably!!!”. Whatever that means. The Jesuits will be flogging themselves one way or another.

  5. grapenose
    January 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Who produces this drivel and who pays for it.

  6. webe
    January 26, 2014 at 9:31 am

    The idea that all the money is on the climate-warming side of the argument is disingenuous — the big money (as it was in the debates between tobacco companies and “cancer” scientists) is all on the part of big oil and conservative interests funding so-called think thanks and other doubt mongers. Global-warming has very slowly and reluctantly won an increasing consensus among researchers who have increasingly sophisticated data sets and models: most people naturally try to repress the most alarming possibilities.

    Even though we do not understand in detail all the variables in climate modeling (and all kinds of long-lived feed-backs that may complicate matters), the green house effect is well understood (mostly water vapor), and an enhanced/additional geen house effect means that things will shift relative to the base-line climate in which human beings have flourished. There have been pronounced green-house effects in the past, but those did not produce climates in which human-beings (could have) prospered. Eating only a banana too much each day will make you 12 lbs. heavier in a year, not to speak of a century. Even if anthropogenic warming turns out to be insignificant compared to other climate variations on a geological time scale, this does not prove there is nothing to worry about on imminent time-scales involving human survival.

    And the real danger is not just small changes in surface temperature but possible positive feed-back mechanisms which could be induced which would not respond to human action once triggered. The energy imbalances are quite exact and involve fundamental physics — the uncertainties are all on the side of how large the effects will be. And even though it may seem that 2 degrees change in average surface temperatrue is peanuts compared to the 100 degrees alternations between seasons or 40 degree swings between one day and the next, those gut-reactions are not scientific judgments.

    • Richard
      January 31, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      “Even if anthropogenic warming turns out to be insignificant compared to other climate variations on a geological time scale, this does not prove there is nothing to worry about on imminent time-scales involving human survival.” That is the most senseless statement I have ever read. So what you are saying is that even if we are not causing “climate change” we still need to get all hyped up and keep rearranging the deck chairs while the ship sinks just so we feel like we are doing something about it?

  7. Hamsta
    January 26, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    The truth doesn’t need an army of “true believers” to defend it.

    I have long held that the warmists and greenies are unconsciously being used to fight a class war on another front.

    The ENTIRE purpose of a civilization or society is to hoover up materials and energy from the natural environment and distribute the goodies to the members of the society to enhance the propagation of DNA. It may be occurring to us in first world societies that that we are starting to really make big demands on the environment and that maybe “WE” have enough. The problem is that the less developed nations want their turn now. So, there is a perception that while WE have enough, the planet can’t sustain everyone at the level of the first world. So…. maybe we should cut back the growth of energy and materials consumption.

    The dirty little subterfuge here is that while “WE” have made it and have enough, the danger is that less developed nations can now easily download technological know how to start their own increase in energy usage to enhance their quality of life. Now, there is a chance that there may not be enough to go around, so let’s put the brakes on growth now, so that ‘WE’ can maintain our high energy usage relative to the rest of the world and maintain our number one position. The third world will have to play ball (for the good of the planet) and go pound sand when in comes to taking their share of resources.

    The lefties in the developed world may not really be so nice after all.

    • Fuck Everyone
      January 27, 2014 at 7:21 am

      Hamsta you do plenty of shit, actually 99.9999 percent of your life, will be spent doing shit that isn’t spreading your DNA. Cut the Church of Dawkins shit out of your life and you’ll be better off. You sound like a 22 year old.

      • Hamsta
        January 27, 2014 at 3:37 pm

        Oops! Must have touched a nerve there,

  8. Yusef
    January 28, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    The reasoning here is weak.

    Even though it is true every other climate shift (there have been many in the history of the earth) has not been anthropogenic and this climate shift may not be anthropogenic, it does not follow this climate shift is not anthropogenic.

    Even though many, and in terms of sheer numbers perhaps most, proponents of the anthropogenic global warming thesis hold it for the wrong reasons, it does not follow from this global warming cannot be anthropogenic.

    Every ecosystem on the entire planet is now sufferinig very serious stress, and this is true whether global warming is anthropogenic or there even is a global warming trend. We have plenty of reason to be very, very concerned. Why, then, the almost exclusive emphasis on anthropogenic global warming? It is obvious to me the thesis is being used to promote specific, very flawed policy proposals: 1) carbon tax; 2) cap and trade. It”s being used as a scare tactic . (But this also not necessarily mean the anthropogenic global warming thesis is necessarily false.)

    • Richard
      January 31, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      You’re getting close to the truth Yusef. The reason we still hear about this junk science is because the politicians figured out that everything we do cause carbon to be released into the atmosphere. So for them a theory that says our carbon is destroying the world is the perfect excuse to tax and control everything we do. That’s why the governments got on board so quick with this and are now trying to stamp out all the dissent by ensuring no one got funding for research in this area unless they were studying global warming but not trying to determine if it is actually happening. Just like all the other junk science our government funds and promotes like the lipid hypothesis.

  1. September 24, 2014 at 5:52 pm
  2. October 9, 2018 at 10:44 pm

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