Climate Watch

Is it time to admit how little we understand climate change?

King crabs on the march
King crabs.jpg

A number of scientific reports released over the last few weeks illustrate how little humankind still understand climate change and the factors that drive it.

Jumping too quickly to fixed conclusions that lead to the wrong choices, might in fact be a greater danger to mankind and the planet we live on than climate change itself.

The latest findings by some very reputable scientists should also, once and for all, put an end to the climate alarmists’ propagandistic branding as “denialists” and “climate sceptics” those who dare to differ from them. A re-evaluation of the tone and content of the ‘climate debate’ has become unavoidable.

Confusing claims

A recent meeting of the National Astronomy Meeting (UK) in Llandudno, Wales, concluded that a recurrence of the Little Ice Age of between 1645 and 1715 may happen again between 2030 and 2040. According to the research presented at the meeting, this type of cooling, which at the end of the 17th and early 18th century saw the Thames River at London freeze over, ties in with cycles in the activities of the sun.

Research conducted by Prof Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University raised a new model of how the sun impacts on earth based on the flow of magnetic fields associated with the sun.

At the meeting of international scientists, Dr Helen Popova of the Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics and of the Faculty of Physics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, said there is no real evidence that humans are the cause of global warming. Even if we do influence the climate, there is a possibility that the sun would give us a second chance, or more time, in order to reduce our emissions and prepare for the sun to return to normal.

Other climate scientists, however, have countered the “Mini Ice Age” claims, arguing that the extra heat expected from global warming caused by increasing carbon emissions, would counteract any fraction of a drop in the sun’s output from 2030.

The Royal Astronomical Society’s assertion in a press release that “solar activity will fall by 60 per cent” did not help, climate scientist James Renwick said.

However, research on deuterium in the Antarctic revealed that there had been four ice ages and five global warmings in the last 400 000 years. Increase in volcanic activity came after the Ice Age and lead to greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming. This process comes with some delay.

This seem to suggest that the influence of human activity on massive climate change cycles just might have been overestimated in recent years and that we might still far from fully understanding all the intricacies of nature involved in these cycles and their causes.

New climate factor discovered

In an article by Daniel Grosvenor of the University of Leeds on The Conversation website, he relates how a new study published in the journal Science Advances, revealed the massive role played by the microscopic organisms known as plankton in regulating the planet’s climate.

“Colleagues and I found that plankton helps to control clouds over remote seas far from land. These clouds in turn bounce the sun’s energy back into space, regulating the Earth’s climate and keeping temperatures cooler than they would otherwise be without them,” he writes.

“To investigate the link between plankton and clouds, we looked at the Southern Ocean. This sea, encircling Antarctica, is one of the most remote places on the planet and far from any man-made sources of particles. And yet it is also one of the cloudiest places on Earth. What then are these clouds clinging on to,” he asks.

Based on analyses of satellite cloud data in a section of the Southern Ocean spanning right around the globe between the 35th parallel south (which passes through Australia and just south of South Africa) and the 55th (which just clips the bottom of South America) they found more cloud droplets tended to occur above patches of the ocean with more plankton, indicated by increased concentrations of a type of chlorophyll used in photosynthesis.

“This means plankton are likely to influence cloud albedo and the amount of energy from the sun that is reflected to space,” he writes.

He warns that the underestimation of the amount of sunlight reflected back into space by clouds could lead to errors in regional sea surface temperature predictions  Aknowledging uncertainties “and incorrect large-scale circulation patterns both locally and in far afield regions such as the tropics, and so it is important that they are corrected”.

However, referring to one of the big bugbears of climate activists, he also notes that “ironically, uncertainties in our knowledge of the ‘baseline’ effect of these natural condensation nuclei are also one of the biggest causes of uncertainties in how anthropogenic aerosols are affecting the climate”.

Nature adapting to climate change

In a recent opinion piece on the subject of adapting to climate change, we wrote: “It may be time for humanity to take a leaf out of the book of nature, which is already showing signs of adapting to climate change. Not only is the Sahel greening again, in Europe trees are showing signs of adapting to absorb more carbon and the vegetation of the continent’s mountain ranges is changing from more cold-adapted species to more warm-adapted species.”

Now the same message comes from an army of king crabs, which have started with a march to a feast awaiting them hundreds of meters below the surface of the freezing ocean surrounding Antarctica.

As part of a series looking at how key species in nature respond to environmental change, an article on The Conversation website tells the story of the pending invasion of the fragile Antarctic ecosystem by the king crabs.

“When the crabs arrive, they are very likely to have a huge impact on the unique animals that live there. If nothing stops the king crabs from moving onto the continental shelf, the defenceless animals that currently live there may well become yet another casualty of climate change,” writes Kathryn Smith, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Florida Institute of Technology.

But then, it is a process that has taken place in nature as part of the evolution of our planet over millenniums and its four ice ages and five global warmings in the last 400 000 years. It happened without any conscious, or otherwise, interference by humankind, who had to make its own adaptations to survive.  

There is nothing to suggest that it would be otherwise in the next natural cycle. Humankind would be well advised to rather concentrate on its own needs for adapting to survive, rather than thinking it could develop the capacity to take control of nature and its processes.

by Piet Coetzer

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