October 2009

The sun causes global warming, not people

By John G. Salls

I have read repeatedly in InTech that human generated global warming is a fact, and we must do something now.

As the majority of your readers are engineers and scientists, I believe we need to be extremely careful when we state the "facts" in a discussion such as this.

The fact is this planet has been through periods of warming and cooling for its entire life. We know there have been periods where there have been sheets of ice hundreds of meters thick covering much of this continent.

We know there have been periods when much of the planet was practically a tropical jungle. If you look at the geological record, it appears we have been through this cycle between 17 and 33 times in the last 2-3 million years.

In general, the glaciation periods last about 100,000 years interrupted by warm periods that last about 10,000 years. Our last glaciation period ended about 10,000 years ago.

More recently between the years 1000 and 1500 AD, we had a period of rapid warming. Temperatures during this period were 3-8°C warmer than they are now. Norse colonies in Greenland actually exported crops to Scandinavia. Wine grapes grew in Britain.

After this, we had a 300-year long cooling period where we had temperatures about 0.5 to 1.0 degrees lower than we do now. This cooling period known as the "Little Ice Age" ended in the mid 1800s.

For all of the changes in temperature that have occurred, we do not know definitively what caused any of them. We have theories, but we do not know. We do know with 100% certainty that humans caused none of them.

We do know there is a relationship between periods of warming and higher CO2 levels. However, if you look closely at the higher CO2 levels, you see they FOLLOW the increase in temperature. In other words, higher temperatures appear to cause higher CO2 levels.

There is no historical or statistical evidence to indicate the reverse is true, that higher CO2 levels cause higher temperatures. The primary theory driving the belief that as CO2 is a greenhouse gas, higher levels of CO2 will result in higher temperatures. However, CO2 is a minor greenhouse gas.

The primary driver of the greenhouse effect is atmospheric water vapor (H2O). Even though we have had a six-fold increase in the use of hydrocarbons since the 1940s, we have not seen a correlating increase in the green house effect.

However, there is a direct correlation between the solar activity and the temperature of the earth during that same period.

The global climate is an enormously complex system involving hundreds if not thousands of variables including the temperature of the sun, which we have absolutely no ability to control.

Are we one of those thousands of factors? Certainly, the human population has reached a point where our activities have some impact on our environment. However, we cannot even say with certainty which of our activities have positive or negative impact.

All we have are theories and models based on our still incomplete understanding of the science. It is nearly impossible for us to predict the weather a week out, yet we are trying to use simple formulas and shaky science to predict what the climate will look like 20 years from now.

We are currently in a 10-year long period of 0-temperature change that not a single one of these models predicted. Scientists now believe this plateau will last another 10 years. In addition, based on these shaky predictions, we modify our behavior in such a way that it will affect the prosperity of every individual on the planet.

Worse yet, we will try to control the temperature of our entire planet based on our shaky understanding? Most of us are lucky if we are able to control the temperature of a process, even a simple one, to within 1 degree, and now we think we control the temperature of the entire planet?

And if we make a mistake? What happens? We lose a batch? We have to start from scratch and try again? Please … let's not try this on this planet. If you can directly control the temperature and climate of an entire planet, how about we try it out first with another planet… say Mars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John G.Salls (jsalls@vision-ics.com) is president of Vision ICS, Inc. in Minnesota. Read Salls' complete and unedited letter at (www.isa.org/link/Salls1009).