Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism > Anthropogenic Climate Change is a Form of Secular Apocalypticism: 3

Anthropogenic Climate Change is a Form of Secular Apocalypticism: 3

In the previous part of this series, I wrote about how there is lots of paleontological evidence that Antarctica (as late as 2.6-2.3 million years ago) was much warmer than it is today. This becomes extremely relevant to any debate about anthropogenic climate change since its ardent believers keep harping about how greenhouse gases released by human activity will, directly and indirectly, cause the ice sheet at both poles to melt and causes sea level rises not seen in many millions of years. As readers have probably figured out by now, the biggest problem with this argument is that Antarctica was far less glaciated until the last two million years. To put it another way, that continent was much warmer over millions of years when the atmospheric CO2 was either equal to or less than current levels. And this occurred while the continents were at their current positions.

So let us talk about paleontological evidence for the most recent forests on that continent. But before that, have a look at first figure (below) to familiarize yourself with its major geographical features- as they appear today. As you can see, Antarctica looks like two continents smushed together and that is sorta correct. Based on surveys using ice-penetrating radar, the larger part aka East Antarctica looks like just another continent with plains, hills and mountain ranges. West Antarctica, on the other hand, is dominated by a striking series of parallel mountain ranges and an unusually wide continental shelf. Note that removing all that ice would cause some of the land currently below sea level to rebound due to isostatic rebound. Here is another link to what lies under that thick ice sheet. Antarctica is like a larger and more mountainous version of Australia.

The 2nd longest mountain range in Antarctica, which partially sticks above the ice, is known as the Trans antarctic mountains or TAM. FYI, the longest one in that continent is found in West Antarctica and is known as the Antarctandes Anyway, back to TAM. You might notice that parts of this range runs pretty close to the geographical south pole. One of the main passages through this range to the polar plateau beyond is a very long and large glacier known as the Beardmore Glacier. One of first famous and tragic attempts to reach the south pole used this route, and oddly enough, is relevant to this topic. The exposed fossil bed of interest aka Oliver Bluffs is located near this glacier. While the plant fossils at this site were first reported in the late 1980s, there is good evidence that Robert Scott of the ill-fated expedition in early 1910s might have discovered this site since he described finding fossilized leaves similar to northern beeches.

Anyway, as you can see in the third figure (below) this area is now very cold, icy and devoid of plant life. While a few coastal areas of Antarctica, especially north of 65 degrees South do have some vegetation- most of it is of the non-vascular type. To date, only two species of vascular plants (Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis) have been found on that continent and they look like stunted shrubs. Oliver Bluffs, on the other hand, is at 85 degrees South and less than 500 km from the south pole. So why did a site that is 20 degrees south to the most southerly parallel currently capable of supporting any vascular plant life host a forest with decent sized southern beech trees and an undergrowth of other plants. More importantly, how was this possible as late as 2-3 million years ago when atmospheric CO2 levels were lower than today?

The fourth figure (below) is a composite of some photographs taken at that site. You might notice that the quality of fossilization is pretty good and one of the layer containing them is sandwiched between two glacier-derived layers implying that that the region went through repeated rounds of glaciation and reforestation. And this brings us to the next question- where did all those seeds for regrowth of these trees come from? While it is not totally impossible that those seeds were dispersed by birds from other continents, the nearest place with such trees (New Zealand) is about 4,000 km away. In other words, it is far more likely that there were more local and permanent forests containing such trees on the Antarctic mainland. But this would mean that a significant part of Antarctica , especially north of 75-70 degrees South and near the ocean was not covered by an ice sheet. Moreover, even the inland ice sheets at that time must have been significantly thinner and smaller than today. So what was going on?

Here is one recent and accessible paper which goes into some detail about various methods used for reconstructing temperature conditions at the Oliver Bluffs site. As you can see, these plant fossils have been dated to the Pliocene (5.3-2.6 million years ago) for past thirty years. Also scientists have been talking about their implication on the climate of that region for almost that long. While some have tried to dispute the dating of these fossils, it is increasingly clear that they do indeed come from somewhere between 4 and 2.6 million years. For example, analysis of pliocene marine sediments from an offshore drill core dated to between 5 to 2.2 million years and over a thousand km from the site with those plant fossils has revealed the presence of fossil nothofagous pollen including from the species found at Oliver Bluffs.

To quickly summarize, there is evidence that many coastal regions of Antarctica were about 30 degrees Celsius warmer than today and resembled parts of Northern Canada, Inland Alaska and Northern Russia during the late Pliocene (2.6-2.3 million years ago). It is also likely that the inland icesheets during that era were significantly thinner and smaller than those present today. Let me remind you that this was during a time when atmospheric CO2 levels were identical or lower than those seen today. Are you beginning to see the problem with current propaganda driven narratives about “global warming” and “anthropocentric climate change”?

What do you think? Comments?

  1. MikeCA
    July 18, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    You don’t mention the Antarctic convergence and it’s effect on the climate of Antarctica. In the ocean circulation patterns there is cold water current that runs completely around Antarctica. The Antarctic convergence is the zone where this cold water meets the warmer waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. This water circulation pattern is believed to be a major factor in the current climate of Antarctica. It makes Antarctica much colder by keeping the warmer ocean waters away.

    The Antarctic converge is why the waters around 50-60 degrees South are so rich in fishes, krill, whales etc. What you were probably referring to is known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which came into existence once South America and Australia separated from Antarctica. The two are sorta connected but they are not the same. The convergence mixes waters and nutrients while ACC is the most powerful and largest ocean current in the world.

    It is believed that Antarctic began to cool gradually starting 38 million years ago as the CO2 content of the atmosphere declined to modern values. The ocean currents that created the Antarctic convergence are believed to have arisen in the last 20 million years (although I have no idea what that is based on). It is thought that there were many phases of glaciers covering Antarctica and then receding back during this period. The 2.5 million year old fossils are from one of periods when the glaciers receded. The climate of one place like Antarctica is a very complicated system, and there are many factors affecting it other than just CO2.

    There have been multiple episodes of glaciation and deglaciation in Antarctica over past 40 or 25 million years. But the real question, then, is whether that continent was ever solidly frozen like now. All available paleontological data suggests that Antarctica fully froze over only in the past 2.3 million years. Prior to that, large portions of it near the sea and north of 75 degrees South had climates rather similar to parts of northern coastal Alaska, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada or the coastal areas lining Barents Sea.

    The physics of global warming is well understood. Increasing CO2 is like making a thicker blanket. It is harder for infrared to escape back into space. This causes heat energy to be stored in the climate system, warming it until energy is escaping back into space at the same rate it is reaching the surface from the sun.

    So how do you explain the many cycles of partial glaciation and deglaciation in Antarctica over past 25 million years? During all those periods CO2 levels were never more than 500 ppm- except maybe for a few years or decades after large volcanic outpourings in Pacific NW and the Malay Archipelago. If such large changes in climate without commensurate changes in CO2, maybe.. it is not the most important driver.

    The complicated part is where is the earth storing that extra energy. In ocean waters? In the deep ocean? in the shallow ocean? In the air? In the land? Most models assume 90-95% of the extra energy is stored in the ocean, warming up the ocean waters. All the uncertainty in climate models is because we don’t completely understand how the whole Earth climate system will react to this extra energy. Will warming the oceans change circulation currents in the ocean? Will it change air current patterns? Changing ocean and air current patterns can significantly effect local climates in unexpected ways.

    That is part of what I am trying to say in the post.. we do not understand the system enough to make definitive predictions and assertions. Climatic changes far larger than those predicted by the doomsayers have occurred without human intervention in eras when the earth looked very similar to today and with levels of CO2 equal to or lower than today. How can we be sure that any climatic change is driven by human activity? How do you measure the impact of something if the baseline is itself so unstable? More importantly, mass extinction over past 600 million years have been driven by ice ages (Ordovician-Silurian, Devonian?) or volcanic and gaseous outflows from large igneous provinces (Cap, P-Tr, Tr-J and K-T) and maybe asteroid impact (also K-T).

  2. July 18, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Tell all that to the Californians burned out of their homes, to the Alaskans whose ice roads are melting in the middle of winter, to the (former) beach community of Mexico Beach, FL, to all those farmers who couldn’t plant their crops this year, to the Europeans experience Sahara Desert weather, to the Indians running out of drinking water, to the Africans slammed by two major cyclones, to those flooded out of their homes in Houston, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Caroline by tropical storms that stop moving as they hit shoe, to the poor people of Puerto Rico.

    In other words, using ONE data point that contradicts literally thousands of others is pure bullshit.

    Actually, there is tons of data to support my contention that the climate of Earth (even in past 2 million years) has been far more unstable than most people realize. I chose the example of Antarctica simply because it is one of most egregious examples of willful blindness by those who preach about “anthropogenic climate change”.

    Anyway.. let us move on to your next points. You might have noticed the SW quadrant of USA is a bit arid. Also California has (for at least past few thousand years) had a climate rather similar to today, which is a nice way of saying that long droughts and frequent forest fires are endemic to that region. If people are stupid enough to build houses in areas prone to forest fires, can we really blame climate? Also, there is a reason why California’s (especially SoCal’s) population increased a lot between 1910 and 1960. Hint.. they built a ton of irrigation and water transport projects in many parts of that state during those decades.

    Most smaller roads in Alaska are not well maintained and often use asphalt compositions meant for colder conditions, which can cause problems if the ambient temperature exceeds their designed limit. As far as Florida is concerned, a decent part of its coastal regions was underwater as late as 3 million years ago. FL and parts of adjacent LA are prone to sinkholes because a significant part of their current surface is made of minerals which dominate rocks formed (or deposited) in shallow seas.

    I can answer every one of your remaining accusations, but that would take a lot of time. So I will go to one more which is especially interesting. The reason why Chennai (Madras) in India is allegedly “running out” of water has everything to do with the government in that state and country not building enough infrastructure for storing and managing water. A year or two ago, the same city experienced record floods because greedy idiots kept expanding it without building commensurate infrastructure to handle rain.

    Even places in India which get 3-4 meters of rain per year during the Monsoon season frequently experience water shortages by summer because storage and management of water resources in that country is remarkably bad.

  3. nyolci
    July 19, 2019 at 12:08 am

    I literally beg to you, AD. You are usually quite okay and quite right. Now you’re completely off the mark. Please stop this bullshit.

  4. bonzo
    July 19, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Interesting series of articles. Correct me if I’m wrong, but final conclusions are:

    1) We might as well burn all the fossil fuels, since CO2 is not the factor causing warming;

    2) Severe global warming is going to happen no matter what we do (since it isn’t CO2 based, we can’t stop it by cutting back on fossil fuel burning) and most of the currently inhabited planet will be uninhabitable, but at least humans can move to Antarctica.

    I have much more to say on this topic, but that will have to wait for future posts. As far as the preliminary conclusions are concerned, CO2 is (at best) a secondary cause of climate change. In other words, we should not worry too much about generating it. I am more concerned about the non-CO2 pollution (particulates, mercury, SO2 etc) released by coal power plants. Also, I am not rooting for coal and gas over nuclear and solar.

    Climate change is going to occur whether humans are around or not. Furthermore, a warmer world is easier to survive than a colder world- at least given the current geographical distribution of continents. Everything we know about past episodes of global warm periods, including those during past 25 million years, strongly suggest it would lead to increase in area available suitable for agriculture and human habitation rather than an increase in deserts or areas too hot to live.

  5. Lurkin Larry
    July 19, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve never really seen people I respect argue against anthropocentric climate change, so you’ve thrown me on a loop.

    The real argument on climate isn’t on whether the climate was different in the past, the issue is the rapidity of the change, and whether the changes caused by that rapid change are positive for human life, and whether the ecosystem can tolerate it in a manner beneficial to us. No one serious is disputing that climate naturally changes, the issue is whether an unhealthily quick change is happening due to human activity.

    You mentioned that we lack information on how climate systems evolve over time, to me that means it is unwise for us to pretend as if dumping chemicals into the atmosphere at an increasing pace is something we should be ignoring. Especially with recent investigation of methane as a factor that was largely overlooked by climate scientists.

    I understand that you’re anti-elitist, and you view the climate change discussions as hysteria, probably as a means to restrict individuals’ freedom, which I agree with on many levels, but are you also aware of oil companies’ deliberate cover up of data pertaining to the influence that humans have on the climate over the past several decades, probably with collusion from several figures in the government. Why have the elitists been so keen on keeping this issue under wraps until recently?

    I’ll admit that I’m not nearly as educated or in-depth in my understanding of this topic or the sciences as you seem to be, but the rapid change occurring in climate right now, the smoking gun represented by collusion of multiple shady actors, and the ignorance of sensitive feedback loops present in the atmosphere, causes me to lean towards caution when it comes to the dangers of anthropogenic climate change.

    If anything, although there is a lot of hysteria, we should focus on nuclear and solar as you mentioned. I believe that we’re currently too ignorant of nature’s feedback loops to tolerate mass scale dependence on fossil fuels.

  6. bajanbayesian
    July 19, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    I am curious why you ignore your boy N. Taleb’s view on climate change and uncertainty – i.e. if one is unsure of whether or not human actions are destabilizing the climate, then it’s probably still a good idea to exercise caution w.r.t. dumping tons of CO2/greenhouse gases into the atmosphere just in case everything does get fucked. There’s no upside to dumping greenhouse gases so why take the risk?

    The overwhelming evidence from paleontology is that CO2 levels upto 2-3X the current ones do not result in anything more than a wetter and globally milder climate. There is, also, no evidence that tropics were intolerably hot in eras when currently temperate and cold regions were significantly warmer.

    • bajanbayesian
      July 21, 2019 at 11:24 am

      That’s still besides the point, I’m saying that global warming and/or greenhouse gases having even infinitesimal chance to destabilize the climate is enough reason to take measures to avoid CO2/ghg pollution.

  7. bonzo
    July 21, 2019 at 3:57 am

    I’m grateful to AD for this series. I don’t know whether he is right or wrong, because I lack a strong earth science background and I’m too lazy to self educate. What I absolutely knew is this:

    1) People react very strongly to this issue, way more strongly than to things like estrogens in the food supply which are affecting us right this minute, especially males, and possibly destroying future generations of males, whereas even if the worst climate predictions come true, we all just move to Antarctica or wherever, so it’s not that big a deal.

    2) Good luck getting the Saudis, Iranians and Russians to leave all their oil in the ground, especially when they have the Chinese, among others, anxious to buy and burn it. Which means good luck stopping increase in CO2.

    3) If, in fact, humans are causing global warming with CO2, then because of point 2, the rational thing would be to figure out ways to either cope with warming or else reverse CO2 buildup somehow (such as increasing ocean plankton or forest cover). But there is nowhere as much enthusiasm for adaptations and fixes as for limiting CO2 output in developing countries (vs Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, China). Why?

    4) AD has a small readership and will not affect the course of world events no matter what he writes. So why do people get upset and urge him to “please stop”?

    Basically, I smell religious fervor and people trying to shut down thought in favor of blind belief. Good for AD to push back against this.

    • nyolci
      July 21, 2019 at 8:49 am

      “People react very strongly to this issue” and “So why do people get upset and urge him”
      Because this above is non scientific, that’s simple. Science here is hard science, not some shitty gender studies. What makes the matter worse is the fact that what AD says is quite moronic.

      We have better and better understanding of climate, especially recent climate (more recent the better the understanding), and this data more and more confirms a very definite, human originated problem. Again, this is science, it’s not like white male whatever. We are not even talking about the solutions.

      • plus d'un cafard
        August 4, 2019 at 7:18 am

        nyolci, you do realise that, from their own experience, people here have a low opinion of what is today being called “science”? (Or “technology” in my case.)

        You use the tactics of bullshitters, and among non-braindead people you will be rightly treated as one.

  8. bonzo
    July 21, 2019 at 3:59 am

    Says I’m spamming.
    —-
    I’m grateful to AD for this series. I don’t know whether he is right or wrong, because I lack a strong earth science background and I’m too lazy to self educate. What I absolutely knew is this:

    1) People react very strongly to this issue, way more strongly than to things like estrogens in the food supply which are affecting us right this minute, especially males, and possibly destroying future generations of males, whereas even if the worst climate predictions come true, we all just move to Antarctica or wherever, so it’s not that big a deal.

    2) Good luck getting the Saudis, Iranians and Russians to leave all their oil in the ground, especially when they have the Chinese, among others, anxious to buy and burn it. Which means good luck stopping increase in CO2.

    3) If, in fact, humans are causing global warming with CO2, then because of point 2, the rational thing would be to figure out ways to either cope with warming or else reverse CO2 buildup somehow (such as increasing ocean plankton or forest cover). But there is nowhere as much enthusiasm for adaptations and fixes as for limiting CO2 output in developing countries (vs Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, China). Why?

    4) AD has a small readership and will not affect the course of world events no matter what he writes. So why do people get upset and urge him to “please stop”?

    Basically, I smell religious fervor and people trying to shut down thought in favor of blind belief. Good for AD to push back against this.

    Says I’m spamming

  9. bonzo
    July 21, 2019 at 4:02 am

    Sorry, needed to click that “accept cookies” popup before my comment would show. I’m on a smartphone using Firefox with Adblock, if that matters.

  1. July 21, 2019 at 10:53 pm

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