AN ALTERNATIVE SCENARIO FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
I must admit I haven’t read the Kyoto Protocol and thus do not know if Kyoto deals with carbon dioxide emissions only (as the Friends of Science claim) or with pollution as a whole. The website offers many links and has some interesting articles. I chose one and here is my take on it.
There is an alternative model to greenhouse gasses that tries to explain the drivers behind the current climate change the world is experiencing. Thus, it is not climate change itself that is disputed, but rather what is driving it! On the one hand there is the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) endorsed “greenhouse gas” model, where anthropogenic causes have increased the greenhouse gasses, in particular carbon dioxide, that are blamed for our current change in climate. On the other hand there is a model that points to the sun and in particular the cosmic ray flux, as the principal driver behind past and current climate change.
Both models use proxies from the past to try and paint the bigger picture. Cosmic nucleotides (beryllium-10, carbon-14, chlorine-36) in ancient sediments, shells and trees are used to measure past solar activities (Veizer 2005). Both models use oxygen and hydrogen isotopes to reflect past temperatures, carbon isotope levels for carbon dioxide levels and boron isotopes for the acidity of the oceans (Veizer 2005). The trends of these proxies are then analyzed and according to Veizer (2005 p.13) “may enable us to decide which one of the two alternatives was, and potentially is, primarily responsible for climate variability”.
Veizer (2005) also points out that one major difference in the two models is that the solar model is explained by empirical observations, where as the greenhouse gas model uses empirical data to create scenarios for the future through General Circulation Models (GMC’s). He further points out that empirical observations should “carry greater weight than theory” (Veizer 2005, p.25), should discrepancies arrive. I however do not quite get the point here, as both still are theories (the mere fact that there is a positive correlation between solar activity and the climate does not prove that the one causes the other) and further more both have been shown to have their weaknesses. (Ramaswamy et al. 2001; Solanki 2002; Solanki etal. 2004; Veizer 2005).
In summary, Veizer (2005, p.20) writes that “the empirical observations on all time scales point to celestial phenomena as the principle driver of climate change, with greenhouse gases acting only as potential amplifiers”. So, even if carbon dioxide is not the principle driver but could act as an amplifier, we should still reduce carbon dioxide emissions as that is something we can do something about! (And with this Veizer (2005) even seems to agree) The sun however, we have no hope to influence. Somehow, I do not understand the point the “anti-greenhouse gas camp” scientists are trying to make?? I also found the paper by Veizer (2005) quite contradictory at times. He describes the two camps as the IPCC on the one hand and “the other side” like Douglass et al. (2004) that claim that “the role of anthropogenic carbon dioxide on climate has not been proven, and that there is therefore no need for emissions quotas such as those mandated by the Kyoto Protocol” (Veizer 2005, p.14). Yet, although he is part of “the other side”, he agrees that reducing carbon dioxide emissions would be a good thing, because that would cause a collateral reduction of sulphur and nitrogen compounds…
To me the fact remains that humans have had a huge impact on our planet. We may not understand all the processes that influence our climate, but that does not free us from our responsibility to be stewards of this planet we call home. We need to find ways to reduce our environmental footprint on this planet, regardless of if it is anthropogenic factors or the sun that drives our climate. What have we got to loose anyway, should be heed to the warnings of the so called alarmist climate scientists? Yet our children could loose everything should time prove the “alarmists” right.
As Dr. Richard Sommerville in the film Too Hot Not To Handle mentioned: “The stone age people did not stop using stone tools because they ran out of stone…”
Douglass DH, Pearson BD and Singer SF. 2004. Altitude dependence of atmospheric temperature trends: climate models versus observations. Geophysical Research Letters 31:10.1029
Friends of Science contributors. Friends of Science [Internet] Friends of Science: Providing insight into Climate Science; update date unknown [cited 2006 Aug 4]. Available from: http://www.friendsofscience.org/index.php
Ramaswamy V, Boucher O, Haigh J, Hauglustaine D, Haywood J, Myhre G, Nakajima T, Shi GY and Solomon S. 2001. Radiative forcing of climate change. In: Houghton JT, Ding V, Griggs DJ, Nohuer M, van der Linden PJ, Dai X, Maskell K and Johnson CA (Eds.) Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. p. 340-416. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Solanki SK. 2002. Solar variability and climate change: is there a link? Astronomy & Geophysics 43:5.9-5.13.
Solanki SK, Usoskin IG, Kromer B, Schussler M and Beer J. 2004. Unusual activity of the sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11 000 years. Nature 431:1084-1087.
Veizer J. 2005. Celestial Climate Driver: A Perspective from Four Billion Years of the Carbon Cycle. Geoscience Canada 32(1):13-28.
BCB Hons NISL student
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
1.I know that plagiarism is wrong. Plagiarism is to use another’s work and to pretend that it is one’s own.
2. I have used the CSE/CBE convention for citation and referencing. Each significant contribution to, and quotation in this project from the work, or works, of other people has been attributed, and has been cited and referenced.
3. This assignment is my own work.
4. I have not allowed, and will not allow anyone to copy my work with the intention of passing it off as his or her own work.