By Ted Robert Bahr
May 15, 2007
Original posting April 9, 2007
“Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet's recent climate changes have a natural—and not a human-induced—cause, according to one scientist's controversial theory.”
-National Geographic, February 28, 2007 Press Release1
“This small warming is likely a result of the natural alterations in global ocean currents which are driven by ocean salinity variations. Ocean circulation variations are as yet little understood. Human kind has little or nothing to do with the recent temperature changes. We are not that influential.”
-Professor William M. Gray, Colorado State University2
“And I do claim that open and frank discussion of the data [on global warming], and of the issues, is being suppressed. Leading scientific journals have taken strong editorial positions of the side of global warming, which, I argue, they have no business doing. Under the circumstances, any scientist who has doubts understands clearly that they will be wise to mute their expression.”
- Michael Crichton, State of Fear3
What images come to mind when we think of global warming? Melting polar ice caps? Human technology spewing toxins into the atmosphere? The very term itself invokes a sense of urgency, responsibility, and even guilt from within the deepest part of the human consciousness. While I am not opposed to combating any negative influences we may be incurring on our planet, the truth is that climate change has yet to be proven a direct result of human activity. In fact, some contest the very existence of global warming.
Nonetheless, the purpose of this article is not to dispute that humans may at least be partially responsible for changes in the world’s weather, but let us imagine for a moment—just a moment—that climate change were wholly the result of a natural cycle of earth changes (humor me, I am going somewhere with this). Let us also say that despite nature’s role in this, somehow (through the mainstream media) everyone became convinced of the opposite—that humans were indeed responsible for global warming. Now let’s imagine that we managed to implement all the new laws and technologies deemed necessary, whatever those may be, for our societies to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Further, let us envisage that after several years still no change in weather patterns resulted. The earth continued its trend toward a bubbling cauldron of catastrophe. At that point in time, it might be reasonable to assume that there would be a push back toward the use of fossil fuels, as they would, through lack of demand, become vastly cheaper than they are today, and under this scenario also have been proven to be not the culprit responsible for climate change.
‘But then,’ you might ask, ‘what about all the other negative effects of pollution such as respiratory illnesses, heavy metals in our lakes and oceans, acid rain, etc.—we are still poisoning our atmosphere and environment, should we not be concerned about that?’
When speaking in terms of global warming, we are focusing on a solitary presumed symptom of human-caused environmental contamination and not the root source of the malady itself. In spending all our time and energy debating whether any change in climate is really anthropogenic in nature, we are neglecting the opportunity to act now and change our reckless behavior before it is too late. If the perceived increase in worldwide temperature is in actual fact the result of our modern industrial habits, then the problem will correct itself once we begin to change our conduct for the better. On the other hand, if exclusively natural causes are at play, we must let nature continue her role without human interference and do only what is necessary in taking care of our own safety to avoid potential harm from an increase in temperatures. What this paper proposes is that we act in a natural and holistic way in order to combat all aspects of human-caused environmental damage (i.e. pollution) instead of focusing on the single, theoretical, and assumed symptom that has been termed “global warming”.
First let us take a closer look at the extremely troubling side of what the global warming belief system could mean for humanity if we continue to adopt this as our cause. If you believe the oil giants of the world could not be replaced with something of equal or greater malevolence, think again. There are many industries (involving many of the same people) that stand to profit once the global warming fear fully grips our society—if it has not already. Simple solutions commonly discussed consist of such ideas as turning down the heat and wearing a sweater, or driving less and walking more. If the small change that is claimed to have happened in the earth’s temperature over the last century were in fact the result of all human industrial and technological processes, one can only imagine the microscopic change that turning down a thermostat 2 degrees would have on the earth’s temperature—if any—even if everyone on Earth participated. This isn’t of course a reason not cut down on natural gas use, but that is the point—cutting usage may not affect the global temperature, but it will affect the amount of pollution. We are told, however, that we must be concerned about global warming, so in favor of the almighty economy, other proposed solutions are in the works that are likely to change our world’s climate significantly if seen through to their final stages. Ever heard of the term geoengineering? Sounds quite innocent really. It only involves manipulating nature on a massive scale in order to achieve certain desired changes in our environment, and is a growing industry. According to a July 16, 2001 article in U.S.A. Today, the following is an example of some items being proposed in light of more common-sense solutions:
Cutting energy usage sharply to reduce greenhouse gases could disrupt the economy and lifestyles of Americans. Some scientists suggest tinkering with Earth's climate, a solution known as geoengineering. The U.S. government takes them seriously
One idea is to harness the power of plankton, tiny ocean plants that absorb carbon dioxide. In some places, low iron rates limit its growth, so why not dump in iron and let plankton bloom? The government has funded small tests and plans a larger trial.
Other Ideas stretch the imagination. Scientists have proposed fleets of Mylar balloons and giant orbiting mirrors. Other ideas make use of an air pollutant called sulfate that reflects sunlight. One scientist has suggested giant guns that shoot sulfate particles into the atmosphere; another would send up a fleet of extra-dirty jets to spew sulfate into the sky, forming a planetary sunscreen.4
Believing that the economy will not take priority over the health and well-being of the planet’s life systems is naïve to say the least, especially when there may be money-saving (or money making) options. We have seen in the past the results of our “tinkering” with nature as with the introduction of predators to an ecosystem to take care of smaller unruly species, or the instigation of “controlled burns” to alleviate the intensity of wildfires only to find we have greatly upset the balance of nature. Imagine what consequences might arise from even the most seemingly innocent of the geoengineering initiatives. Take for instance the iron-dumping scenario. Oceans are a complex, dynamic ecosystem with tens of thousands of plant species and animal life, yet scientists are proposing the crude solution of trying to increase plankton production with the application of iron particles. Even if this temporarily augments the quantity of plankton, other ocean life would likely become choked off from this increase. Further, it is anyone’s guess how many other species would thrive or decay as a result of introducing excess iron, upsetting the balance of the ecosystem dramatically. What is more, the fossil fuel pollution issue remains unchanged.
That plan is one of the milder geoengineering schemes currently being considered. The result from the more drastic of the proposals could be catastophic in the long term. One could spend all day examining the effects of the “giant guns” or “dirty jets” scenarios, which would further poison our skies only so that we could feel at ease polluting them more with our industrial lifestyles. What about giant orbiting mirrors? The idea here is to deflect sunlight away from the earth so as to decrease the amount of solar radiation entering the atmosphere. This would likely cool things off a great deal, and aside from the expense seems like a great idea, as no longer are we left with the problem of creating more pollution on top of what we already generate. However, where does the vast majority of all life energy originate here on Earth? The sun. Even reducing the solar radiation by only 0.5% would greatly diminish the amount of energy supporting plant and animal life, and the most fragile would altogether disappear. In addition, let’s return to our original setting where we just may have been wrong about an anthropogenic global warming. If the warming trend were the result of a natural cycle, and we created any sort of sunscreen or sun-deflector, then we are definitely in for a surprise when the earth cycles back to its next cooling trend since it will already be cooler to begin with. On the positive side, I suppose that will keep the creators the giant mirrors happy when we decide we now need someone to build a giant magnifying glass to heat the earth up again!
With the global warming package, other non-constructive phrases begin to loom. The term “greenhouse effect” is one such example. Most of us tend to observe this as a new evil resulting from air pollution, and therefore, we must take action against it. The truth is that the greenhouse effect is merely the phenomenon that exists when gases in the atmosphere trap heat instead of allowing all of it to escape back into space. The roster of greenhouse gases includes such sinister chemicals as carbon dioxide (expired by all animals and needed for plant life to survive), methane (a natural byproduct of plant decay), and even water vapor. How does a term like this contribute to our progress in combating harm to the environment? The truth is, it doesn’t. It complicates the facts and distracts from the issue of what really constitutes pollution. Incidentally, from this we are also left with a premise for a global greenhouse gas tax as recommended by the International Panel on Climate Change according to member of the United Nations, Peter Heinlein.5 Climate Panel Recommends Global Temperature Ceiling, Carbon Tax, Voice of America, Feb. 28, 2007, Peter Heinlein Yes, a global tax. Not a civic, nor a national tax, but a global tax in which no private citizen will have any say whatsoever.
Carbon dioxide, widely considered one of the chief causes of the greenhouse effect, is a major target of the global warming lobby. Let us take it to the extreme and say that we somehow managed to mitigate CO2 levels to the point that they were reduced 95%. Plant life survives on carbon dioxide. If we decrease the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, then we are in effect suffocating the plant life. I am in no way supporting the use of fossil fuels as a method of promoting plant growth, but focusing on CO2 without concentrating on eliminating all elements of pollution once again undermines a natural process. In other words this is one of the chief ways nature is able to combat pollution in that the more carbon dioxide that is present, the more likely plants are able to thrive and consequently, consume pollution, thereby cleansing and rejuvenating the air.
Using the global warming pretext, the proponents of nuclear power as well are more than happy to tout the “benefits” of their so-called “alternative energy source.” Political figures such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair 6 and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore7 have both expressed their intention at one level or another, to advance nuclear power as a substitute for fossil fuels. Mr. Gore qualified his stance by saying nuclear power is not the only way to combat climate change and these power plants still carry the danger of nuclear arms proliferation, but that he still supports augmenting their use as an alternative to fossil fuels. The truth is that although nuclear power plants may not produce greenhouse gases at levels as high as other forms of energy production, they emit harmful radiation. This radiation, though relatively low to begin with, has a tendency for “biological magnification” meaning it increases exponentially down each successive link of the food chain. Additionally, there is no safe way to dispose of nuclear waste, and there is always the possibility of another Chernobyl-like incident—not a worthwhile risk to take. Once again, we see how the focus on global warming distracts from the main issue, which is a lack of respect for the planet’s life systems.
Another example of how the fight against global warming is becoming destructive is the use of the newer compact fluorescent bulb versus the incandescent ones. I would not treat this issue with such weight if it weren’t for the fact that certain governments are now imposing laws banning the incandescent ones altogether as is happening in Britain. It is claimed that the fluorescent bulbs mitigate fossil fuel emissions by using much less power than the incandescent bulbs. While this may be the case, if the light is switched on and off frequently, the bulb wears out much more quickly than it would if it were left on as discussed by Christopher Booker in an article in the UK Daily Mail.8
He goes on to explain that the bulbs also contain toxins such as mercury, which would be very harmful to the environment when disposed of. Why not make use of a candle or two? Why not turn off the lights when not in the room? I cannot tell you how often I see people turn on lights during the day instead of opening the blinds or drapes to let some natural light in. Not only will that save money, it is also good for you. Why do we hardly ever hear anyone or any organization touting the benefits of playing board games instead of watching T.V.? Because there is no money in it, that’s why. It is evident the global warming focus once again is generating hype around a narrow issue based solely on the greenhouse gas scenario instead of forcing us to examine the overall environmental impact that integrating the fluorescent bulbs into our lifestyles might have.
So is it a good idea to drive less and walk more, or plant another tree or two in our backyards? Should we use more efficient appliances in our homes? Is it wise to turn down the heat and use a dimmer switch when possible? To all these questions the answer is unequivocally ‘yes’. Should we do this based on the fear of global warming? I would not advise it. It is inevitable that the earth will warm up at some point in the future. The climate on this planet is ever changing, and we know this from the multitude of historical accounts and evidence ranging from the discovery of species of animals trapped in glaciers, to vineyards that once existed in Great Britain where the present climate no longer supports them. The global warming issue is a red herring that will inexorably create the misconception that we are here to control nature instead of learning to manage our own behavior. It endeavors to make us feel as though we are doing something valuable, while instead moving us to cater to veiled corporate and government interests, including the further erosion of our freedoms with more laws and more taxes. Based on shortsighted, narrow-minded, and egocentric ideas, it narrows our focus, so that we become blinded to the vast array of consequences we might otherwise encounter in trying to allay the effects of human environmental contamination. The countless dollars our governments waste in merely trying to prove the existence of anthropogenic global warming is an obscene waste of tax money and resources, never mind what is spent in an attempt to combat it.
The time has arrived for a new direction in the environmental movement—one that does not depend on endless scientific study and debate but relies on what we already take for granted as self-evident. Our pollution is sickening the planet at a startling rate and we know this as fact. The presence of acid rain, smog causing respiratory distress and disease, the unprecedented occurrence of genetic mutations and mercury poisoning in many animal species the world over, and the destruction of wildlife and clean air basins due to forest clear-cutting, on their own should merit immediate actions toward a brighter ecological future and a cleaner human conscience. The only path toward this end begins with an education that not only illustrates the effects of our industrial habits on the environment, but also introduces the philosophy of a human-nature holism whereby we may view ourselves not as caretakers of nature, but as a fundamental part of it—encouraging creative problem solving, discovery, and innovation at the level of the private citizen. All this can only take place once we realize there is vastly more to the environment than just the temperature.
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