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GLOBAL WARMING EVERY 1,500 YEARS–WHAT IT MEANS FOR ENGINEERING
Thursday, August 28th 2008, 6:30 AM EDT
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
From CGFI.Org (Center for Global Food issues)

GLOBAL WARMING EVERY 1,500 YEARS–WHAT IT MEANS FOR ENGINEERING
by DENNIS T. AVERY

Hysteria over global warming has gripped the affluent countries of the world.

-Climate modelers claim the earth’s temperature could be boosted an astounding 11 degrees C by the additional CO2 being released into the atmosphere as humans burn fossil fuels.

-Dozens of major governments have signed the Kyoto Protocol, which essentially promises their countries will give up all “non-renewable” energy sources— virtually all energy sources except solar and wind.


-U.S. farmers are cheerfully sharpening their chain saws to clear more forest and plant more corn for “renewable” ethanol even though the ethanol produces only 50 gallons worth of gasoline per acre, against an annual U.S. gasoline demand of more than 134 billion gallons.

-A Kansas utility has been denied a permit for a new coal-fired power plant by the State Department of Health and Environment, which says it would add too much CO2 to the air.[1]

This is an astonishing set of events, given that there is no evidence human-emitted CO2 has actually raised the earth’s temperatures significantly. The evidence we have is a warming, which began about 1850, and mostly occurred too early to be blamed on human-emitted greenhouse gases. The total warming from 1850 to the present has been 0.7 degrees C—but 0.5 degrees of the warming occurred before 1940. Eighty 80 percent of humanity’s greenhouse gases emissions came after that date.

The earth’s net global warming since 1940, moreover, has been a barely-measurable 0.2 degrees C—over 70 years. During this time the climate forcing power of CO2 molecules has been declining logarithmically, to the point where soon additional CO2 won’t make any further climate impact.

The climate warming alarmists say that our recent warming “must be caused by humans,” since nothing else would account for the strong warming from 1976–1998. However, there was an equally strong global warming surge from 1916–1940, before global industrialization and auto numbers began to emit CO2 in serious amounts. The fact is that no one can diagnose a climate change on the basis of a mere 25 years of data. Climate events are too long-term, and the short-term events are too complex.

From 1940 to 1975, global temperatures actually trended down, while CO2 emissions were soaring. The alarmists blame this cooling on sulfate particle pollution from power plants, which they claim masked some of the incoming solar radiation. If that were true, however, the southern hemisphere should have warmed faster than the northern hemisphere. In fact, the temperatures rose fastest right were the power plants were located, in the northern hemisphere.

What else could have warmed the earth in our time?

Our first clues come from history.

British Wine Grapes

Wine grapes are one of our important climate proxies because people have always grown wine whenever and wherever they could. The Romans wrote of growing wine grapes in England in the 1st century, when they occupied that island. They also wrote of wine grapes and olive trees gradually being cultivated farther and farther north in Italy. It seems clear that the climate was warming during the 1st century. Then the Romans left Britain, and the world entered the Dark Ages, when it was apparently too cold to grow wine in Britain.

In the 11th century, the Britons themselves were growing wine grapes. William the Conqueror’s tax collectors had nearly 50 vineyards on the tax rolls of the Domesday Book.[2] After 1300, however, the European climate shifted to a cold phase and for 550 years no wine grapes were grown on the island. Londoners held ice festivals on the frozen Thames instead.

The next time British wine grapes matured was not until after 1950. Britain currently has about 400 vineyards, but almost all of them are of the hobby type. The British wine industry’s website says the vintners get only about two good years out of ten, but the rising global thermometers are giving them hope for the future. They also benefit from some hybrid grapes that the Romans didn’t have.

The Greenland Vikings

Another eloquent testimonial to the existence of a long, natural climate cycle comes from Greenland. Eric the Red led a group of Viking settlers there from Iceland in 982 AD. They called it Greenland because the coastal regions were then bright green with grass. They pastured their dairy cattle and thrived for at least 300 years on milk, cheese, vegetables, seal meat and codfish. Eric’s son Leif even ventured to Newfoundland in search of timber, but the natives’ arrows drove him away.

Then, the sea ice began to move south. The codfish moved south too, away from Greenland. The summers got shorter, making it harder and harder to grow enough hay for the cattle during the lengthening winters. Eventually, the sea ice and worse storms cut Iceland off from Greenland for a long 350 years. The last written record of its 3,000 inhabitants was a wedding in 1408. The Greenland Vikings starved or froze due to climate change.[3]

Ancient Chinese Records

China’s written records, of course, go back further than those of any other country. China’s climate from 1000 BC to 1400 AD has been reconstructed from palace records, official histories, and diaries. Key indicators include the arrival dates of migrating birds, the distribution of plant species and fruit orchards, patterns of elephant migrations, and the major floods and droughts. G. Yu of the Chinese National Academy of Science concludes that Chinese temperatures must have been 2–3 degrees C higher than present during the Holocene Warming 6000 years ago. Pollen analysis reveals that the deciduous forest extended 800 km further north then than it does today, and tropical forest occupied areas that are now broad-leaved evergreens.[4] Also, Chinese wealth rose steadily from 200 BC, peaked about 1100 AD, and then entered a prolonged decline, according to Kang Chao’s careful economic analysis.[5] Chao also reports that China averaged less than four major floods per century during the Medieval Warming and twice that many during the Little Ice Age. Major droughts were only one-third as common during the warm centuries as during the cold phases (the unnamed cold period before 200 BC, the Dark Ages from about 200 to 800 AD, and the Little Ice Age from about 1300 to 1850 AD).

Are we dealing with a cycle? A cycle too moderate and long-term to be discerned by primitive peoples without thermometers or written records?

The answer was confirmed in 1983, by the retrieval of the world’s first long ice cores from the Greenland ice sheet. Willi Dansgaard of Denmark and Hans Oeschger of Switzerland were anxious to learn what the ice could tell us about the earth’s temperature history. They had learned that the oxygen isotopes in the ice layers revealed the air temperature when the ice was laid down, through the ratio of 018 “heavy isotopes” to 016 “light isotopes,” which evaporate at different rates.

Dansgaard and Oeschger had expected to see the long 90,000-year Ice Ages in the ice layers, and they did. What they had not expected was a long, moderate 1,500-year climate cycle. The cycle was very regular during the Ice Ages, at 1470 years, plus or minus 10 years. It is somewhat more erratic during the warm interglacial periods, but still dominated the earth’s temperatures over the past 12,000 years.[6] The cycle is abrupt, which argues for an external source. Dansgaard and Oeschger suspected the sun, partly because that’s where most of our heat comes from, and partly because the “solar isotopes”—carbon 14 in trees and beryllium 10 in ice—showed the same cycles.

Within a few years after Dansgaard and Oeschger, a team led by France’s Claude Lorius brought up an even longer ice core from the Antarctic, at the other end of the earth; and it, too, showed the 1,500-year climate cycle extending back nearly a million years.[7] Dansgaard, Oeschger, and Lorius shared the 1996 Tyler Prize (the “environmental Nobel”).

A Complication: At the Equator, Temperatures Don’t Change But Rainfall Does.

The 1,500-year cycle typically produces a temperature change of 4–5 degrees C from peak to trough. Temperature changes are greater in the Arctic. At the equator, however, the temperatures don’t change, the rainfall does. The tropical rain belts at the equator can move hundreds of miles north and south during the cycle. The Sahara may become wet enough to pasture cattle, even as Kenya and Cameroon undergo severe drought. California tree rings show two century-long droughts during the Medieval Warming and the southern tier of United States showed persistent dryness, while Canada and Siberia became warmer and wetter.

We don’t claim the 1,500-year cycle is totally benign. We do claim it is unstoppable. That means humanity’s response must be keyed to adaptation, not prevention.

Physical Evidence from the Earth

1,500-year Cycle in seabed sediments from at least nine oceans:

Researchers have found physical evidence of the 1,500-year climate cycle in the seabed sediments of at least nine oceans based mostly on the number and variety of the plankton fossils found in the layers.

Gerard Bond of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found it in ice-rafted rocky debris from Canada and Greenland, deposited in the North Atlantic.[8]

Peter deMenocal of Lamont-Doherty found it in the plankton fossils of the South Atlantic, off West Africa. [9] Lloyd Keigwin found the 1,500-year cycle from a carbon-dated seabed core in the Caribbean. [10] Sweden‘s Carin Andersson constructed a 3,000-year temperature history in the Norwegian Sea that showed the cold period before the Roman Warming, the Roman Warming, the Dark Ages, and Medieval Warming and the Little Ice Age.[11]

A Baltic Sea sediment core shows a cold-weather period beginning about 1200 AD—and that the present Baltic is still too cold to support the warm-water plankton varieties it had in abundance during the Medieval Warming.[12] Off Alaska, Old Dominion’s Dennis Darby found the cycle on the continental shelf of the Chukchi Sea.[13]

In the Eastern Mediterranean, Israel’s Bettina Shulman found the cycle in the oxygen isotopes of the plankton, in titanium/aluminum ratios, in iron/aluminum ratios, and in magnetic susceptibility.[14]

In the Arabian Sea, W. H. Berger and Ulrich von Rad found the cycle in sediment cores ranging back nearly 5,000 years. They suggested the cycles were tide-driven, but noted that “internal oscillations of the climate system cannot produce them.”[15]

In the Pacific near the Philippines, the phytoplankton were more productive during the glacial periods than during the warmings. The researchers say “the 1,500-year cycle . . . seems to be a pervasive feature of the monsoon climatic system.” [16]

The 1,500-year cycle—in lake sediments all over the world:

In Switzerland, one-celled fossils from Lake Neufchatel showed Swiss temperatures were “on the average higher than at present,” and then fell by 1.5 degrees C during the shift to the Little Ice Age.[17]

In West Africa, sediments from Cameroon show that the climate oscillates as the rain belts of the Intertropical Convergence Zone shift north and south in the 1,500-year rhythm. Francis Ngeutsop says his lake sediments showed southward shifts were marked both by drought in Nigeria and Ghana and by more rain in Zaire and Tanzania.[18]

In Central America, the Mayan cities were abandoned after a prolonged drought during the cold Dark Ages. Evidence from Lake Chichancanab and the Cariaco Basin just off the Venezuelan coast both confirm that the Mayans suffered at least 100 years of low rainfall, punctuated by periods of three to nine years in a row with little or no rainfall.[19]

In Argentina, lake sediments from a high volcanic plateau showed that rainfall and climate changed sharply when the world shifted from warm to cool and back again. The study team concluded, “The Little Ice Age stands as a significant climatic event in the Altiplano and South America.” [20]

Near Antarctica, on Signy Island, lake sediments clearly show the Roman Warming, the Dark Ages, the Medieval Warming, the Little Ice Age—and a 20th century warming that is still not as warm as the Medieval Warming.[21]

The 1,500-year cycle in fossil pollen:

The North American Pollen Database shows nine complete reorganizations of our trees and plants during the last 14,000 years—in a 1,500-year rhythm. [22]

In Spain, pollen analysis from 3,000 years of sediments in the Ria de Vigo shows three cold periods alternating with three warm ones, “paralleling global climatic changes recorded in North Atlantic marine records.”[23]

In east Africa, pollen from the bottom of Kenya’s Lake Naivasha shows a two-century drought during the Medieval Warming, when the Sahara to the north was wetter than normal. [24]

The 1,500-year cycle—in cave stalagmites from every continent plus New Zealand:

On the Arabian Peninsula, a stalagmite showed a precise record of the 1,500-year climate cycle in the monsoon rainfall of Arabia, the African Sahel and India. The stalagmite’s cycles were also in phase with the temperature fluctuations of the Greenland ice cores 12,000 years ago—but since the disappearance of the northern ice sheets, the cycle has been governed by solar activity instead.[25]

In China, a cave stalagmite near Beijing used the manganese/strontium ratio as a “geochemical thermometer.” The study found the Medieval Warming—and a “little Ice Age which was 1.2 degrees C colder than now.”[26]

A South African stalagmite shows temperature during the Medieval Warming may have been 3 to 4 degrees C higher than at present. The lowest Little Ice Age temperatures were recorded during the Maunder and Sporer sunspot minimums, just as in Europe.[27]

A New Zealand stalagmite showed exceptionally warm temperatures from 1200 to 1400, and extreme cold from 1600 to 1700—“in the Southern Hemisphere and a region meteorologically separated from Europe.” [28]

The 1,500-year cycle—in ancient tree rings from around the Northern Hemisphere:

A 1,400-year tree ring study in 1990 led by Britain’s Keith Briffa showed little evidence of the Medieval Warming or Little Ice Age. In 1992, however, Briffa redid the study, using an alternative standardization technique, which captures temperature change on longer timescales. This showed the Dark Ages, with 660 being an especially cold year, and the Medieval Warming with “peaks of warmth” from 720 up to 1430.[29]

In northern Quebec, tree rings and buried spruce skeletons showed colder weather from 760 to 860, a warming from 860 to 1000, and severe cold from 1025 to 1400.[30]

In Siberia, a 2,200-year record from peat-buried tree rings shows a warming from 850 to 1150, followed by a sharp cooling from 1200 through 1800. The authors report that 20th century warming is “not extraordinary.” [31]

In northwest Pakistan, more than 200,000 tree-ring measurements from 384 trees on 20 sites show the warmest decades between 800 and 1000, and the coldest period between 1500 and 1700.[32]

Climate Cycling in North America

The North American Pollen Database, previously mentioned, shows nine complete shifts in vegetation since the last Ice Age. The most recent started about 600 years ago, culminating in the Little Ice Age, with maximum cooling 300 years ago. The previous shift culminated in the maximum warming of the medieval Warm period 1,000 years ago. “We suggest that North Atlantic millennial-scale climate variability is associated with rearrangements of the atmospheric circulation with far-reaching influences on the climate,” say the authors. [33]

Water levels of the Great Lakes show a strong response to the 1,500-year climate cycle, with the lake levels high during the climate coolings and low during warming periods. Todd Thompson of Indiana University and Steve Baedke of James Madison University constructed their lake-level history from the “strandplains”—shore-parallel sand ridges that have a core of water-laid sediment.[34]

In the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, foxtail pine and western juniper tree rings indicate a Medieval Warming from 1100 to 1375, and a cold period from 1450 to 1850. Tree rings from the long-lived bristlecone pines correlate statistically from 800 to the present “with the temperatures derived from central England.”[35]

U.S. Forest Service researchers analyzed long-dead trees that grew above the current treeline on California’s Whitewing Mountain—and concluded that temperatures must have been 3.2 degrees C warmer when they were killed by volcanic gases in 1350.[36]

This is just a sampling of the physical evidence the earth offers on past climate changes. The evidence comes from a wide variety of sources which confirm each other. The evidence is clearly global. Much of it confirms higher temperatures during past warmings than today. Dansgaard and Oeschger clearly documented much higher temperatures than today during the Holocene Warmings 8,000 and 5,000 years ago, which severely undercuts the idea that the trees and plants and birds and bees won’t be able to adapt. They did. They’re here.

The 1,500-year cycle in other climate proxies:

On Greenland, the University of Michigan’s Henry Fricke tested the tooth enamel of dead Vikings for oxygen isotopes. He documented a 1.5 degree C drop in temperatures from the colony’s settlement to its extinction.[37]

In the north of England, archeologists found the nettle groundbug thrived in the city of York in both Roman and Medieval times. Its typical habitat today is on stinging nettles in the much-warmer south of England.[38]

In the Swiss Alps, the three most recent and best-documented periods of landslides (colder and wetter weather) were during the Little Ice Age, the Dark Ages and the unnamed cold period before the Roman Warming.[39]

In Argentina, prehistoric remains show that villages moved higher up the slopes as the Medieval Warming brought “a marked increase in environmental suitability,” rising as high as 4300 meters in the Peruvian Andes around the year 1000. After 1320, the people migrated back downslope in the colder, less stable climate of the Little Ice Age.[40]

In southern Africa, carbon–dated crop remains prove the climate of the region must have been both warmer and wetter during the Medieval Warming, from about 900 to 1300.[41]

The Sun-Climate Connection

People have known for some 400 years that there is a direct connection between sunspots and the earth’s temperatures. We’ve been counting the sunspots since Galileo made his first telescope, and we’ve known for centuries that the coldest period during the Little Ice Age occurred during the Maunder and Sporer sunspot minimums, when there were virtually no sunspots at all. Britain’s William Herschel said in 1801 that the price of wheat was directly controlled by sunspots, since less rain fell in Britain when there were few sunspots.

But how could the sun control the earth’s climate? Fifty years ago, we spoke of the “solar constant.” However, we’ve found in recent years that there is a tiny variation, 0.1 percent in the sun’s irradiance. We’ve also found that the number of sunspots and the length of the sunspot cycle, which ranges from 8–14 years, have a powerful correlation with subsequent changes in the earth’s sea surface temperatures.

Richard Willson, of Columbia and NASA, reports that the sun’s radiation has increased by nearly 0.05 percent per decade since the late 1970s, when satellites first made it possible to monitor the sun directly. He says he can’t be sure that the trend of rising solar radiation goes back further than 1978, but that if this trend had persisted through the 20th century, it would have produced “a significant component” of the observed global warming.[42] Rodney Viereck of the NOAA Space Environment Center admits that natural climate variation could account for one-third of the recent global warming. [43]

Henrik Svensmark of the Danish Space Research Institute offers a more powerful sun-climate hypothesis: that small variations in the sun’s irradiance are amplified into significant climate changes on earth by at least two factors: 1) cosmic rays creating more or fewer of the low, cooling clouds that deflect solar radiance back into space; and 2) solar-driven changes in ozone chemistry in the stratosphere that simultaneously create more or less heating of the earth’s lower atmosphere.[44]

The sun constantly releases a stream of charged particles, the solar wind, which partially shields the earth from the cosmic rays that are constantly emitted by distant, exploding stars. The solar wind varies with the sun’s irradiance. When the sun’s activity is weak, the solar wind is weakened too, so more cosmic rays streak through our atmosphere, creating low, wet clouds, which in turn increase the earth’s ability to reflect more of the sun’s heat away from the planet. That’s a cooling effect. That’s why cloudy skies predominated in the landscape paintings during the Little Ice Age.

When the sun is stronger, as it has been since 1850, the solar wind blows more strongly and the earth is shielded more effectively from the cosmic rays. That means fewer low, cooling clouds, and more warming of our planet.

Svensmark matched the data on cosmic rays from the neutron monitor in Climax, Colorado, with the satellite measurements of solar irradiance. Over the period from 1975 to 1989, he found cosmic rays increased by 1.2 percent annually, amplifying the sun’s change in irradiance about fourfold. “The direct influence of changes in solar irradiance is estimated to be only 0.1 degree C,” he says. “The cloud forcing, however, gives for the above sensitivity 0.3–0.5 C, and has therefore the potential of explaining nearly all of the temperature changes in the period studied.”

Svensmark then filled a laboratory cloud chamber with the earth’s mix of atmospheric gases, turned on a UV light to mimic the sun—and watched in fascination as the chamber quickly filled with microscopic globules of water and sulfuric acid. In the real atmosphere, these “cloud seeds” attract more moisture and create more of the low, wet clouds that cool the earth. Further experiments are planned at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

Helpfully, the UN’s IPCC has already noted that its climate models cannot duplicate the impacts of clouds in the real world. It noted in the science chapter of its 2001 report that not only can it not estimate how much warming or cooling a given cloud might produce, it cannot even tell whether the impact of the cloud is warming or cooling! If it turns out that low, wet clouds really do act as the earth’s thermostat, this cloud modeling failure could turn out to be the weakest link in the UN’s whole climate science adventure.[45]

Ozone chemistry also seems to offer an amplifier of the solar variability. Joanna Haigh of London’s Imperial Collage says that more “far UV” from the sun produces more ozone in the atmosphere—and that ozone absorbs more of the near-UV radiation from the sun. Her computer modeling suggests that a 0.1 percent variation in the sun’s radiation could cause a 2 percent change in the ozone concentration.[46] NASA’s Drew Shindell says his team confirmed that ozone is one of the key factors that amplifies the effects of solar variations.[47]

Climate warming alarmists don’t like to concede that the 1,500-year cycle exists, which is ridiculous in the face of the global evidence. Or they say that the 1,500-year cycle has been superseded in our time by man-made warming. How do we know that, when none of the warming which has occurred has been outside the parameters of the past cycles?

The alarmists do not, however, offer clear evidence proving man-made warming, because they have none. They go only as far as saying that the Greenhouse Effect is “very likely” the cause of recent temperature increases. All they have are unverified climate models, which are not evidence.

If we destroy modern society on the basis of that non-evidence, we will deserve what we will surely get: chaos, poverty, and radically shortened lifespans. For openers, we’d have to give up the 80 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer produced annually with fossil fuels. Half of the world’s food supply is grown using nitrogen fertilizer. Organic-only farming would either starve half the population, or force the clearing of the world’s remaining forests to grow more low-yield crops.

For the determined cycle skeptics, I recommend getting a copy of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years. We cite hundreds of studies, by more than 450 peer-reviewed authors and co-authors who have found reason to doubt the “global warming consensus.”

The Baseless Fears: Debunking the Greenhouse Hype

The green movement and the media, in their wisdom, have decided that just having a warmer world isn’t scary enough to make us give up 90 percent of our energy—although cars with pedals instead of accelerators and stone-cold furnaces are pretty scary thoughts in themselves. So they’ve given us a little added incentive to buy into the renunciation of fossil fuels: A shopping cart full of scary scenarios.

Millions of Extra Human Deaths

One of the wildest claims is that global warming would cause millions of extra human deaths. This despite the well-known fact that cold is far deadlier to humans than heat. In fact, from 1979 to 1997, extreme cold killed roughly twice as many Americans as heat waves, according to Indur Goklany of the U.S. Interior Department. [48] Moreover, heat waves are becoming less and less of a threat as air conditioning spreads. Heat-related mortality in 28 U.S. cities dropped from 41 per day in the 1960s to only 10.5 per day in the 1990s.[49]

In the meantime, lots of people keep dying from heart attacks and high blood pressure, risks that are radically elevated by cold. In Germany, heat waves were found to actually reduce overall mortality, while cold spells led to a significant increase in deaths.[50] The German authors say that the longer a cold spell lasts, the more pronounced are the excess deaths, and that the higher death rates persist for weeks.

What about malaria and yellow fever? Wouldn’t warmer climates favor the mosquitoes that spread them? How quickly we forget. Malaria was endemic all over the U.S. and Europe before it was eradicated by DDT and window screens after World War II. All the mosquitoes need is a patch of sunlit water that stays warm for a few days to hatch their larvae. One of the biggest malaria outbreaks in history occurred in Russia in the 1920s; 600,000 people died. If malaria began to spread in the U.S., we would probably remember the formula for DDT. DDT is not only a cost-effective mosquito killer, but also a powerful mosquito repellent that reduces malaria rates about 60 percent when sprayed inside homes every six months.

Huge Sea-Level Increases

The second-scariest claim is that the Greenland and Antarctic ice cores will melt due to warming—and raise sea levels 20–30 feet. It’s true that sea levels rise when ice melts. At the end of the last Ice Age, there was so much ice in glaciers and ice sheets that sea levels rose 400 feet in about 2000 years. But note that this took two millennia—and happened at the end of a big Ice Age, when the forcing agent was the sun, not CO2.

Elephant seals are telling us that the frigid Antarctic has already had a thousand-year warming, which started during the Roman Empire and produced temperatures higher than today’s. Even that long warming didn’t melt the huge Antarctic ice mass or drown the world’s coastal cities. Brenda Hall of the University of Maine reports carbon-dating bits of molted elephant seal skin and hair—and even mummified seal pups—left behind in past centuries on the raised beaches of Antarctica’s Ross Sea. The region today is much too cold for elephant seals to molt or breed; they need ice-free beaches, and the Ross Sea shore is currently locked in ice year-round.

years ago” as the Medieval Warming ended and the Little Ice Age set in worldwide.

Hall and her research team conclude that the current retreat of the West Antarctic ice sheet may have been going on for thousands of years. It’s likely to continue even without further human-emitted greenhouse gases, until the planet gets another Little Ice Age—or a big one.[51] John Stone of the University of Washington says it would take another 7000 years to melt the Antarctic ice cap even with substantial warming.[52] Another Little Ice Age, or a big one, is due long before that.

Remember that Greenland and the Antarctic are too cold for their surface ice to melt. They melt only around their edges, and the ice above the edges must be heavy enough to keep delivering more to the edges. Even then, the ice moves “at a glacial pace” because it is so cold

Even the alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that the most-vulnerable part of the Antarctic ice sheet (the Amundsen Sea Embayment) would take thousands of years to melt at present temperatures. Even doubling of its current outflow rates would add only 0.5 mm per year to sea level rise.[53]

Neils Reeh of the University of Denmark says there’s “broad agreement” among sea level experts that another 1 degree C of warming would melt enough of Greenland to raise sea level by only about half an inch per year. [54] Meanwhile, the Southern Ocean has warmed enough to produce snow over the Antarctic, so the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is adding about 45 billion tons of ice per year—almost completely offsetting the Greenland meltwater.

Expect sea levels to keep rising at 6 inches per century.

What about the fiercer storms?

Storms are actually powered by the temperature differential between the poles and the equator. During a warming, the Polar Regions get 4–6 degrees warmer, and the equator doesn’t—so there are fewer, weaker storms. Dozens of research studies document the lack of more or fiercer storms, including the entire June, 2003, special issue of Natural Hazards. J.B. Elsner of Florida State University notes the British Navy recorded less than half as many major Caribbean hurricanes per decade during 1700-1850 (the end of the Little Ice Age) as we’ve recorded in the past 50 years of warming.[55]

Will a million wild species die because of our current, moderate warming?

No species has died due to rising temperatures yet, despite 150 years of what we’re told was “unprecedented” warming. The Golden Toad of Costa Rica was a claimed overheating victim—but then we found that the ranchers who cleared the lower slopes of the toad’s cloud-forest home had altered the cloud dynamics. Trees and vegetation are cold-limited but not heat-limited, so they’re currently extending their ranges northward while also keeping their past habitat. Hundreds of studies worldwide have found that birds, bees, butterflies, mammals, snakes and myriad other fauna are extending their ranges to keep pace, creating a richer biodiversity in our forests than has existed over the past 1,000 years.[56] Experts from Environment Canada say that Ontario forests still have 30 percent less biomass than during the Medieval Warming. [57]

What the 1,500-Year Climate Cycle Means for Engineering

What all this means for engineering is that the current warming is unstoppable, and we must adapt to it rather than destroying the world’s economic growth in the attempt to stop burning fossil fuels. The first shift in our thinking should probably be toward support of the nuclear power resurgence to provide the base power that has so far relied on coal and is ill-suited to the erratic output of solar panels and wind turbines.

Dozens of new nuclear power plants are now being built and designed all over the world, especially in China and India. The new generation of nuclear plants is focusing on well-tested designs with passive safety systems that will be both safer and more efficient than our present plants. We should probably also use fast breeder reactors to make better use of the uranium and rhodium deposits, and to minimize the need for long-term storage of spent fuel. Storage designs have already offered 10,000-year safety, but we have lacked the political will to move ahead as long as fossil fuels were cheap.

We should also pursue greater efficiency in transportation fuels. Even if we can use petroleum and gas, their proven reserves are long-term limited. Hybrid cars will be increasingly useful. One biotechnology entrepreneur foresees biotech production of hydrogen, biologically freed from its oxygen molecules—a massive energy breakthrough, if it can be achieved.

We will have a greater need for air conditioning, and for heat-adapted building designs that will be more efficient and comfortable in moderately-warmer climates. We will have a massive need for more water use efficiency, not only in farming, but in all other forms of our society’s water use.

I recently visited The Springs project in Las Vegas, which has just won an architectural award for its excellent use of terrain, wind catching, yard plantings, and computers to increase energy and water efficiency. We will need such developments on a broader scale than ever before.

The climate of the Modern Warming won’t be entirely benign. There will be severe droughts and some floods, and there will continue to be hurricanes and typhoons. We will have to roll with their punches. During the Medieval Warming, California had two century-long droughts that would have severely stressed a modern society. Such droughts may occur again, and we must be prepared to adapt. San Diego, for example, may become even dryer, for long periods. That may mean the city will have to desalinate its drinking water, recycle its wastewater, and import much of its food from a newly warmer and wetter Canada. We’ll need plans for desalination plants, and their energy sources. We may need to enhance the crop-production infrastructure in Canada, and tie it into the U. S. road and rail nets.

The whole southern tier of U.S. States had a tendency toward drought in the Medieval Warming. If that occurs again, we may need to gradually shift cropping patterns northward, and produce more semi-arid crops in Texas and Georgia. This will require extensive adaptation by the farmers and farming infrastructure. We’re already seeing a northward shift in wine grape production—toward British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley as an example, while the long-famed Napa Valley has to harvest its grapes at night to minimize grape losses.

On an even more somber note, the tropical rain belts are likely to move northward by hundreds of kilometers in Africa—bringing unusual wetness to the Sahel, and leaving Kenya and Cameroon unusually dry. Should we relocate the people? Will there be more efficient ways for them to support themselves where they are now? This will take study and effective decision-making, based on a difficult mix of science and politics.

What will happen to the climate of the Middle East? How will it impact Moslem societies already stressed by unequal world incomes and broadening use of modern technologies? The problems might get easier to solve, but perhaps not.

Our scientists have shown great enthusiasm in documenting the 1,500-year climate cycle, and our media have demonstrated marvelous talents for mobilizing public opinion in support of a very modest global warming. Now, the engineering professions must demonstrate their ability to adapt our societies to a less dramatic but equally pervasive challenge of warming adaptation.

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[1] Steve Mufson, “Power Plant Rejected Over Carbon Dioxide For First Time,” Washington Post, October 19, 2007.

[2] The Domesday Book was assembled in 1086 by the tax collectors for the newly enthroned William the Conqueror.

[3] Brian Fagan, Floods, Famine and Emperors, Chapter 10, Basic Books, 1999.

[4] G. Yu, et al., Paleovegetation of China: a pollen data-based synthesis for the mid-Holocene and last glacial maximum, Journal of Biogeography, Vol. 27: 635–64, May, 2000.

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