Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 5:16 pm | Fair 65º


Michael Rattray: Dubious Climate Change Assumptions and Goleta Beach Park

[Noozhawk's note: One in a series of Friends of Goleta Beach Park commentaries about Goleta Beach Park.]

Global warming predictions have been broadcast ever since the 1970s, with countless cycles of unusual weather patterns, warming surface temperatures, rising sea levels, and opinions that forecast near-term catastrophic outcomes.

Michael Rattray
Michael Rattray

At the turn of the century, the Bering Strait began to shrink, sprouting rivers, calving icebergs and ultimately shedding 600 feet of depth. Throughout much of the United States, temperatures rose and often broke into the 100s. Droughts and devastating hurricanes bedevil a vast swath of the country, from the Gulf of the Mexico to the East Coast.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently announced in its Fifth Assessment Report that it is now 95 percent confident (“extremely likely”) that human influence is the dominant cause of these catastrophic outcomes.

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia," the report states. "The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”

The authors (government-sponsored) go on to say that carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere now is higher than it has been in almost a million years. The atmosphere has more CO2 and it took us just 200 years to increase all CO2 by 40 percent, the report says.

So let’s take a closer look. According to the NASA website, 78 percent of the air we breathe is nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and 1 percent is argon. CO2 is between 100 and 700 parts per million, or .01 percent to .07 percent. This gas is produced by the natural process of us breathing and exhaling, Mother Nature and, yes, an output of fossil-fuel production for the consumption of energy. It’s true that the world’s output of fossil-fuel emissions of CO2 has doubled to 33 billion tons through 2010, with China the largest producer (the United States has remained relatively flat since 2000). But without CO2, all plants would die.

The total amount of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere is approximately 750 billion tons, with man-made CO2 emissions creating 6 billion tons not absorbed by natural “sinks” (vegetation and oceans). And, yes, this gas is not being absorbed and stays in the atmosphere, well, almost forever. The IPCC authors will have us believe that there is not just a correlation but a causation that the CO2 not absorbed is the largest contributor for rising surface air temperatures.

However, the greatest difficulty faced by the IPCC is explaining the ongoing 15-year pause in atmospheric temperature increases. The world pumped more than 100 billion tons of man-made CO2 into the atmosphere over this same period, yet global surface temperatures have remained essentially flat. That's the mystery. If emitting CO2 — remember, we are talking about one half of 1 percent — into the atmosphere causes global warming, why hasn't the globe been warming?

The lack of warming and the smaller-than-predicted warming since the U.N.'s IPCC began issuing projections suggests that its computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. While the Fifth Assessment Report has projected “scenarios” with different levels of CO2 production (leveling, shrinking, continued projected increases), its models of surface temperature rise continue to be inconsistent with current trends. Indeed, IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri has conceded that the "pause" already may have lasted for 17 years, depending on which data set you look at.

A recent study by Nature Climate Change and the University of Victoria in British Columbia found that models have overestimated warming by 100 percent over the past two decades. The data to support their thesis come from ocean buoys and deal in hundredths of a degree of temperature change, with a measurement error far larger than that. Moreover, ocean heat uptake has been slowing over the past eight years, contrary to the latest hypothesis from the IPCC that that’s where much the heat-trapping greenhouse gases are depositing.

Equally important and being ignored in this latest IPCC report is the recent Arctic summer that left more than 533,000 square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year — an increase of 29 percent. The rebound from 2012’s totals comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free by the summer of 2013.

Our planet is a part of a complex universe with interrelated systems of ever-changing variables that contribute to its evolution. Is CO2 emissions the true tipping point that many world governments want us to believe? Our sun’s radiation (or sunspots), volcanic activities, other greenhouse gases, how water vapor affects climate patterns, and sulfate aerosols that actually produce a cooling effect on surface temperatures suggest that the web of complexity needs to be better understood prior to government policies to tax and regulate economies for an unproven ideology.

Novim, a widely recognized Santa Barbara nonprofit organization, reports the results of global studies without advocacy. One area of concern — because it is also a greenhouse gas — is methane leakage from natural gas exploration. Click here to view all of Novim's studies.

Research and technology will and should continue to develop alternative energy sources for an expanding world economy and food production processes that will contribute less emissions to an ever-growing human race in a balanced and responsible way. But we need to ask ourselves the consequences of bad government policies based on solutions looking for a problem.

The State of California continues to be out front of the world in terms of punishing producers without justifiable causation that their contributions to global warming are the contributing factor.

Oh, and the facts about the melting Bering Strait cited in the first paragraph happened at the beginning of the 20th century. Just think where America would be today if the IPCC — or the California Coastal Commission — had been in place in 1900?

Click here for more information on Friends of Goleta Beach Park, or email Michael Rattray at [email protected] or Ed de la Torre at [email protected].

— Michael Rattray represents Friends of Goleta Beach Park.

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