Climate Change: A personal perspective by Duncan Robertson

Question: Should we be panicking about Climate Change?
Answer – Not really?
Response: That’s daft, of course we should, were destroying our world because we’re causing climate change!
Answer – No, that’s not strictly true.
Response: Why do you say that?
Answer – Let’s look at this from a pragmatic perspective.

The world is about 4.5 billion years old and the climate has been changing ever since. The problem is that no-one had a paper and pencil to record it; that’s because we weren’t here.
Humans only appeared 4 billion four hundred and thirty-four million years later, so about 66,000,000 million years ago; and even then, there were still no pencils available.

The most detailed information on global temperatures exist since 1850, when methodical thermometer-based records began, so only 169 years ago; in effect an almost unmeasurable fraction of a second if thinking of the timescale in terms of a clock face. So, is any temperature fluctuation in this period something we should be concerned about? Some might argue, there has been a change and that’s due to us; science has proved it and its effects have been documented.

In the beginning when the world comprised molten rock and major geological activity, when thousands of volcanoes were spewing out heat, dust and debris of all sorts, I think we might assume the world was then so hot it was uninhabitable. We know the effect a single volcanic eruption can cause in contemporary times.

The world has cooled and in the interim the temperatures have fluctuated as science has discovered. All manner of life on the planet has changed and continues to do so; that is something that is inevitable, as is referred to in the works of those such as Charles Darwin.

Inserted here is an article written by the journalist Phil Berardelli in 2010.

Approximately 13,000 years ago, as the last ice age was winding down, Earth’s Northern Hemisphere reverted to a near-glacial period called the Younger Dryas. Temperatures dropped by 15˚C, and giant ice sheets again advanced south from the Arctic. But things were much different in the Southern Hemisphere. New data reveal that the globe’s bottom half continued to warm its way out of the ice age, even as the north temporarily plunged back into another deep freeze.
Scientists blame the Younger Dryas on a disruption of ocean currents. As the ice age ended, melting glaciers poured huge volumes of cold freshwater—enough to fill all of the Great Lakes several times over—onto the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean. The freshwater killed off the Gulf Stream, which brings warm surface water up from the tropics to North America and Western Europe. Lacking that warmth, temperatures in the northern latitudes plunged.
The Gulf Stream represents just one segment of a giant ocean current called the conveyor belt, which loops around the globe and affects the temperatures of all the continents. When the glacial meltwater blocked the Gulf Stream, scientists think it set off a climate cascade all over the planet. But until now, scientists haven’t had enough data to figure out what exactly happened on the southern half of the world.
To get more answers, an international team led by paleo climatologist Michael Kaplan of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, concentrated on a well-studied part of New Zealand called Irishman Stream, in the central part of the South Island. The Irishman valley is strewn with soil deposits and large boulders that had been pushed downstream by a glacier during the ice age. Kaplan says he and colleagues chose the valley because the team’s previous research had shown that the location remains essentially undisturbed from when it emerged from the ice—the boulders and soil have not budged since.
Based on their chemical analyses, the researchers concluded that the boulders came to rest as the glacier retreated back up the valley sometime during the Younger Dryas—an indication that this part of the world was warming as the north was cooling. To determine the timetable more precisely, the team employed a technique that analyzes the isotope beryllium-10 in quartz crystals in the rocks to compute exactly when the rocks were first exposed to open air (i.e., when they emerged from under the glacier) and thus bombarded by cosmic-ray particles.
Reporting in the 9 September issue of Nature, Kaplan and colleagues found that all but one of the rocks’ exposure to cosmic rays began between 13,700 and 11,100 years ago—well within the Younger Dryas. In other words, he says, the glaciers in New Zealand were retreating at the same time as the glaciers covering the northern half of the globe were on the move again.
Kaplan says the phenomenon probably occurred because the disrupted conveyor belt was not bringing enough deep, cold water south. That triggered other climate mechanisms, such as changes in winds, which allowed the Southern Hemisphere to continue to warm. So while temperatures took a nosedive in the north, they must have been warm enough to melt the ice age glaciers in New Zealand.
It’s “an exquisite piece of work, in terms of detailed observations of the glacial deposits, the precise and accurate dating of the deposits, and the sheer number of precise dates,” says paleo climatologist R. Lawrence Edwards of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. And geomorphologist Martin Kirkbride of the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom says the study pinpoints “the timing of glacier advances as precisely as is technologically possible.” That’s very important, he says, for understanding how ocean circulation transmitted climate change across Earth’s surface at the end of the ice age.

There are of course many areas of life we affect by our sheer stupidity as “intelligent human beings.” We can’t live peacefully with each other and in the main we don’t appreciate the planet we live on and that’s the absurdity of it. Huge areas of the world are affected by war, disease and so many other factors of our own making. Man’s inhumanity to man is something we live with daily.

It was Lord Acton a British historian born in the nineteenth century who said, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” and he didn’t have the benefit of contemporary media to witness this on a worldwide scale.

There is a serious lack of human education and understanding throughout the world; but on the positive side, through the likes of the internet this will hopefully change but it won’t happen overnight.

It is worth bearing in mind that our Carbon footprint that everyone talks about is changing for the better. The way we generate electricity, will in due course lead to a major change in the way we heat our homes. We will stop burning gas; and millions of central heating boilers will at last be obsolete. The Internal Combustion engine in motorcars and a diversity of transport will soon be replaced by electrical energy as battery technology improves. The diesel engines in the world’s sea going shipping fleets; Merchant vessel’s alone number in excess of 53,000, will also be replaced by alternative means of propulsion. The propulsion of the world’s aircraft will also be much cleaner if not completely pollution free in due course.

There are many who work towards these goals; who don’t feature publicly, who do not seek power or recognition, or acquire ‘celebrity status,’ they work for the benefit of mankind and we should all bear this in mind and be grateful to them.

What we can all do is try to live sensibly in our daily lives; don’t discard litter, dispose of it sensibly and re-cycle when you can.

Be respectful of everyone and please pick up after you dog!
Posted in News.