Climate Change, Not Climate Stasis

Yes, I know Climate Change is everywhere in the news. It’s a divisive issue, with an overabundance of name-calling, unsupported statements, speculation and outright fraud.

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to write about it from my perspective as a semi-climate scientist (I worked with dendroclimatological data as an archaeologist) and long-time student of things scientific and climatological.

The central thesis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (and many other organizations and individuals) is that observed climate variation in the 20th Century is the result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as a result of burning of fossil fuels.

Further assumptions of this thesis include a) increases in global average surface temperature resulting from CO2 increase are inherently detrimental to global environments and human civilization; and b) observed rates of increase in CO2 concentration and global average surface temperature, and thus, global climate, will continue linearly into the future.

There are no historical data to support assumptions a) and b). Existing historical records suggest that periods of warmer climate, such as the Medieval Warm Period, were times of greater biological productivity and advance of civilization, while colder periods, such as the Little Ice Age, were periods of drought, biodiversity reduction and human misery. Historical climate records plus proxy climate records of geologic history clearly show that climate is a chaotic system that does not change linearly in response to any single factor.

The assumption of human causation of observed climate variation is so convoluted I’m astonished at the widespread, unquestioning acceptance of this thesis by the broader scientific and popular communities.

When I first became aware of the IPCC’s Anthropogenic Global Warming climate mandate and their acceptance of Michael Mann’s “Hockey Stick” graph, I knew there was something seriously wrong. I had been studying climate variation over the past three millennia as part of my archaeological research, and I knew for a fact that the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period were real climate phenomena that did not appear in the IPCC argument. My archaeological data demonstrated an increase in human population movements across the Bering Strait during the Medieval Warm Period, and a decrease in movement during the Little Ice Age.

Subsequent research has failed to dissuade me from my earliest conclusion. It is increasingly clear that human CO2 production has very little influence on naturally occurring climate variation, and therefore, reducing human fossil fuel consumption and investing in a huge, environmentally destructive renewable energy industry will not be effective in changing the course and rate of climate variation, even if such an effort were proven to be desirable. The chaotic interplay of variables responsible for naturally occurring climate variation are so much more powerful than human produced atmospheric CO2 as to be overwhelming.

The Earth’s climates will continue their inexorable pas de deux between glacial and interglacial periods, regardless of human action. We are currently in the Holocene Interglacial, which is reaching the end of its run, exhibiting increased variability as it approaches the inevitable tip over into a rapid decline into the next glacial epoch. There’s not a thing we can do to change this cosmic cycle other than to prepare ourselves to adapt to a rapidly changing environment such as humans experienced in our early evolution.

Humans are an evolutionary product of natural climate variation that is beyond our ability to control. The sooner we accept this reality and let go of the notion of control of the world and its processes, the sooner we can get down to the task of preparing to live as a part of the world, not apart from it.


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