Very many of the world’s scientists have publicly stated that they believe that the atmosphere of the Earth is undergoing a phase of warming that is directly due to human activity.
Since the industrial revolution, and particularly in the last 60 years or so, humans have been using fossil fuel resources at a vast rate and, as a result, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
This gas is a natural greenhouse gas – it is normally present in the atmosphere and it acts as the glass in a greenhouse does. Without it, the Earth would probably be too cold to support life but our over-production of it is causing the planet to warm up and disastrous consequences have been forecast.
There is no doubt that working out what is happening to the climate at the global level is a complex business. But some scientists are arguing that we are all being driven along on a rollercoaster that is going the wrong way. They believe that the evidence often cited for global warming can be interpreted a lot differently. Some even suggest there is a global warming swindle and that global warming myths are being perpetuated instead of telling us the truth.
Is the Sea Level Rising?
One well-respected Swedish scientist has said that, despite the claims of many scientists, the sea level is showing no signs of rising generally over the whole planet. Dr Nils-Axel Morner explains that the sea level did show a modest rise from 1850 to about the 1940s, of around 1 millimetre each year. This was before the explosion in carbon dioxide production. Since then, this rise has not been detected.
Some land masses are rising up, while others are going down due to the normal earth cycles, but he says this has nothing to do with the atmosphere. He further notes that some of the data used to ‘prove’ a recent rise in sea level of 2.3 mm per year is incorrect. It was produced by adding in a correctional factor that Dr Morner thinks completely obscures the true nature of sea level changes.
But Ice is Melting…
Another piece of evidence often cited to support global warming is the fact that the polar ice caps are melting. However, some scientists argue that while the Arctic ice mass is obviously reducing, the Antarctic is actually cooling. The amount of ice there has increased during the last 50 years.
Carbon Dioxide is Effect, Not Cause
Other scientists look at the data on carbon dioxide and conclude that it is an effect of natural fluctuations in the systems of the Earth, not a cause of warming or cooling trends that are measured. They draw attention to records from ice cores drilled in the Antarctic that show very great fluctuations in atmospheric temperature over the last 650 000 years. These could not be due to human activity and they seem to show that temperature increases generally occurred before significant rises in carbon dioxide levels.
What’s Bad About Warming?
There are also experts who point to the cooler periods in the history of the Earth as examples of when times got really bad. The mini ice age that affected Europe in the Middle Ages caused infectious disease epidemics and starvation because of the difficulties in growing food.
Although many are currently concerned about the rise in temperature and its effects on the Arctic, the Polish scientist and climatologist Zbigniew Jaworowski is convinced that past records show that warming in the Arctic Circle has always led to an increase in biodiversity, not a decline. It may be that some species become threatened, but the changing environment will create niches that can be occupied by others. Can humans decide which species should have priority?
Who to Believe?
It is very difficult to look at the comments and arguments from distinguished scientists with such opposing views and decide who is right. Only time will tell, ultimately, whether the Earth is going to warm or cool, and whether our current efforts to reduce carbon dioxide output will make any difference.
As individuals, we can only live to our own standards; it seems to make sense to conserve energy from the point of view of cost as well as the environment. In the meantime, all we can do is wait and see what happens. The mystery of whether global warming is a myth will be down to the next generations to solve.