Don Easterbrook is a professor emeritus of geology at Western. He holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and PhD in geology. He’s also nationally known as a global climate change skeptic.
Easterbrook has studied climate change from the ice ages to the present day. His focus is in studying the movements of glaciers from climate change, as well as doing isotopic analysis of the elements found in ice cores.
He believes the Earth is currently in a cooling period. He continues to research climate change with an international team of over 50 members, including solar physicists, atmospheric physicists and glacial geologists. He is the author of eight books and more than 150 journal publications, including “Evidence-Based Climate,” which was published in September 2011.
How long have you been working or researching specifically climate change, and what is your background in the field?
I’ve been working on climate change 50 years. The way I approached it is by first studying the fluctuations of glaciers, both modern ones and ancient ones, which allow you to reconstruct what the climate was like when the glaciers were advancing and retreating. They’re like very old paleo-thermometers. They allow you to determine what the climate was doing.
When the climate is cold and snowy the glaciers advance, and when it is warm and dry they retreat. They leave a footprint of where they have been. So you follow those footprints, and you can tell what the glaciers have been doing, which tells you what the climate was doing. I also work with isotopes. They too carry a signature footprint of old climates.
What are your current thoughts on climate change? There’s a lot of talk in the media about how it’s going to get drastically hotter. You say it’s going to go the opposite way. Could you expand on that?
The whole issue of climate change rests with data. My whole approach is to look at the data. Unfortunately, a lot of politics has gotten involved with the sciences that relate to climate change, specifically because there are huge amounts of money involved, like hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars. There’s a huge amount of power.
Climate change is being used as a lever to try to push for a world government. This is being done in international conferences sponsored by the United Nations that meet every year. The last one was just in Durban. So, unfortunately because of that, there is a lot of rhetoric and a lot of selective media coverage.
My message is look at the data and make up your own mind. My opinion versus somebody else’s opinion is something that you can argue about all day. If you look at the data, the data will tell you way more than anything anybody’s opinion will. I have worked with a lot of data that relates to the changing of climate. The data is very clear.
What the data is saying is that global climate changes have been going on since the beginning of geologic time, and especially in the last 10,000 years.
We’ve had ice ages, and we’ve had warming periods. Most of the last 10,000 years have been warmer than it is now, for example. We can dig this out of the geologic record. We can say that the past is really the key to the future. We can determine patterns that are replicated over and over and over again, and we can project those into the future to see what’s likely to happen. What this is telling us is that the climate has oscillated back and forth: warm, cold, warm, cold, warm, cold.
How long do cooling and warming cycles generally last?
We’ve had 27 climate changes in the last 400 years: warm, cold, warm, cold. There have been four in this past century that have nothing to do with CO2, because CO2 wasn’t a factor hundreds of thousands of years ago. We know that those are not at all related to CO2. So why would we expect climate change today to be related to CO2? Well, if you can prove it, fine, but there is no single piece of real evidence that points to CO2.
And the bottom line of this is that global warming ended in 1998. We’ve had no global warming above the temperatures of 1998 since then — despite the fact that the U.N. group Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,predicted that there was going to be a one degree rise of temperature by 2010, it actually got cooler. Not by a lot, but a little bit.
We have been in a cooling trend now that’s related to ocean temperatures offshore that have happened. The Pacific changes modes from warm to cool to warm, there’s nothing in between. It’s like an off/on switch. It switched from cool to warm in 1977, and we had 20 years of global warming. There is no doubt that we have had global warming — that’s not the issue. Everybody agrees there has been. The question is what’s causing it.
Can Western students over the next couple years expect to see a change in the climate?
If there is one thing constant about climate it is that it’s not constant. It’s always changing. It has always changed. We are coming out of what has been called a "Little Ice Age,” which happened about 500 years ago.
For 10,000 years before that, the climate was actually warmer than it is right now, then we plunged into that Little Ice Age. We’ve been coming out of a hole ever since. The last 400 years we’ve been thawing out of the Little Ice Age, if you like. So yeah, it’s been getting warmer about one degree a century. It’s been going on. There’s nothing new about it.
So the warming we saw, which lasted only from 1978 to 1998, is something that is predictable and expectable. When the ocean changed temperatures, global cooling is almost a slam dunk. You can expect to find about 25 to 30 years yet ahead of us before it starts to warm up again. It might even be more than that.
Are you continuing your research now that you are no longer teaching for the university?
I’m even more active in research then I was before. I am essentially doing full-time research on global climate change, and I work with an international group that consists of all these other people that I mentioned — solar physicists and astrophysicists. There are about 50 of us that work together.