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Abstract This article explores the phenomenon of global warming, climate change, and the extraordinary consequences popularly speculated. As a hypothesis can only be scientific if it is testable, this article tests key assertions of climate change Catastrophism against the facts of the geological record. Finding that, climate change Catastrophism lacks scientific support, the implications of neo-catastrophist behaviour with special regard to global warming is considered and in this light, the proposed remedies for global warming are examined against contemporary crises and opportunities.
This article finds that the impact of excessive land clearance is of far greater concern. What is Global Warming? Global warming is a generalisation in both space and time used to describe the rising trend in mean global temperature evident in many but not all analyses of near-surface temperature data. Temperature is measured instrumentally at weather stations located mostly in and around cities, towns and villages; and by infrared imaging of the lower Troposphere obtained by satellite.
The Troposphere is the lowest layer of atmosphere making lower Tropospheric mean temperatures much more representative of global mean temperature than the average of measurements taken in mostly built up areas that are ultimately exaggerated by building heat during Winter, air-conditioner venting during Summer, and radiant heat from bitumen and concrete, etc. It is noteworthy that those promoting the global warming panic still use the soundly discredited instrumental temperature charts instead of the less convenient satellite data.
Climate change, and in particular the subject of global warming, has become a hotly debated subject in recent years. Much of the debate seems to be focussed on speculative projections arising from an emphasis of the soundly discredited instrumental temperature averages of contemporary history to the exclusion of better quality satellite data along with what is known about temperature trends throughout human history and indeed prehistory.
According to those alarmed at the prospect of a warmer planet Earth, global warming poses one of the greatest threats humanity have faced in our rather short history. It is often asserted that global warming is caused by rising carbon dioxide levels and that it will ultimately cause the expansion of deserts and arid regions, a substantial rise in mean sea level, and the mass extinction of much of the life on planet Earth. If such catastrophes were indeed the product of global warming, they would have occurred as consequences of past global warming events.
The geological record with numerous indicators of temperature, climate, sea level, carbon dioxide levels, and biodiversity; can be used to test the speculation that global warming would indeed be catastrophic. Claims of global warming catastrophe are speculations made on the basis of limited combinations of physical processes. The applicability of such combinations cannot be proven on their own merit, because without some form of empirical testing we cannot verify that they are completely representative of all processes relevant to global climate change.
Without a repeatable test against which to measure such claims, they cannot correctly be described as scientific hypotheses. Geological history is ignored by those raising the alarm about global warming and I have heard it argued that the geological record is irrelevant because it is "in the past and things are really different now". However, the very uniqueness claimed of those current conditions identified as affecting the climate can also be tested against the geological record.
Moreover, cyclicity is well documented in both history eg. Tuchman, and geology eg. Miall, , so it stands to reason that the past can offer a valuable testbed for climate speculation. Palaeotemperature Temperature in the geological record, is determined by oxygen isotope ratios measured from the analysis of remains of floating marine organisms and calibrated against the correlation of oxygen isotope ratios measured in modern floating marine organism remains against temperature means measured in human history eg.
Another very accurate indicator of temperature is the extent of specific sediment types such as tillites, moraine deposits, and drop-stones, indicative of glacial activity at latitudes specific to the plate tectonic reconstruction of the period of geological history in question Scotese, ; Royer et al. Recent pH corrections to the oxygen isotope palaeotemperature record made by Royer et al. In this sense we have a very accurate picture of some of the patterns and variations of temperature throughout geological history.
Palaeobathymetry Taking variations of mean sea level into account has proven vital to accurate basin analysis. Basin analysis is used to identify the historical path of source and reservoir rocks relative to the oil window. This is used to determine whether potential reservoirs may have been buried too deeply or alternatively if potential source rocks have been buried deeply enough to produce the targeted hydrocarbons. Miall devotes an entire section to the subject of non-seismic methods for reconstructing a palaeobathymetric record.
While seismic methods used stratigraphic features such as onlap to indicate relative sea level through time, other methods include sediment thickness plots, the Fischer plot based on cycle number, and the R3 plot based on decompacted sediment thicknesses.
While precise correlation between methods is not observed, the accuracy of correlation is surprising.
If palaeobathymetry is accurate enough for profitable stratigraphic analysis in petroleum exploration, then the global plots are accurate enough to test the assertion that global warming causes sea level rises. Palaeoclimate Sedimentology is a study of sedimentation that compares modern sediments with sediments observed in the geological record in order to identify depositional environments. Implicit in the nature and extent of depositional environments is the controlling palaeoclimate.
Pelletal clays, evapourites, desiccation cracks, synaeresis cracks, and wind borne sediments such as sand dunes, loess, and parna are all indicators of arid conditions which are confirmed by the presence of clasts with etched or pitted surfaces, silcrete, and dreikanters wind-faceted pebbles.
Tillite, moraine, drop-stones, and striated erosion surfaces found on outcrop, boulders and drop-stones are all produced by glaciers. Coals are typically preserved in wet and humid environments. Other environments clearly indicated by sediment types, sequences and stratigraphic sequence include deltas, estuaries, submarine canyons, braided river systems, meandering river systems, coral reefs, abyssal plains, coasts, etc. Sediment features such as bed thickness, symmetrical ripples, asymmetric ripples, megaripples, crossbedding, trough width, and grain size indicate the relative volume, speed and power of transport mechanisms such as river systems, which in turn are governed by the amount of precipitation available to the fluvial river system Miall, Biodiversity The fossil record is well established, with faunal progression so well documented that in some parts of the fossil record, transitional forms are too numerous to determine a precise time of speciation.
Although the global distribution and extent of environments favouring fossilisation varies with time, there is a well defined alternation of mass extinction and biological radiation. Carbon Dioxide Levels Throughout Geological History Past carbon dioxide levels are measured from the contents of vesicles and cavities that were once exposed to the atmosphere - such as those found in ice cores.
Another method used to determine older carbon dioxide levels is the use of a series of carbon dioxide steady states to calibrate the weathering of silicates with carbon dioxide levels.
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Is Global Warming Really Catastrophic? To answer the question of whether global warming really is catastrophic, it is logical to fall back on science rather than politics or economics. Science has nothing to do with consensus nor with qualification. Science is entirely based on hard evidence, falsifiable hypotheses, and repeatable tests.
Consider; the world was still an oblate spheroid back in the times when by almost unanimous human consensus, the world was believed to be flat and have edges guarded by terrible beasts. A lack of approval of your peers and a lack of qualifications cannot possibly prevent you from testing scientific theories such as gravity. In fact, you conduct a scientific experiment every time you cross the road when you check to ensure no traffic is approaching before stepping off the curb.
You can also test the claims that global warming has catastrophic consequences because having established that the geological record provides an excellent test bed for these claims, we can now test them as hypotheses against the geological record. This, is the nature of science. Let us therefore scientifically test each of the hypotheses that global warming does indeed have catastrophic consequences.
Radiometric dates in black grid of 50 million year increments with epochs in alternating grey and white.
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Glacial periods are overprinted in solid cyan. Note the greater correlation between cosmic radiation and temperature than between carbon dioxide and temperature.
Note also the sudden rise in extinction rates every time global mean temperature falls below 19 degrees Celcius. The only extinction event to occur above 19 degrees Celcius occurs in response to a sudden drop in oxygen levels. Up until the break-up of Gondwana, oxygen and temperature have a roughly inverse correlation.
Relative sea level sometimes correlates directly, sometimes inversely, and at other times indefinitely which, is to say that mean sea level and temperature do not correlate throughout geological history. If global warming is indeed in some way unprecedented, then we would expect to find no match for the current global warming trend in the geological record. Let us consider just the most recent Holocene epoch - dominated by human history. Average near-surface temperatures of the northern hemisphere during the past 11, years compiled by David Archibald after Dansgaard et al.
Looking at just the historical picture, shown in the graph above, we can see that global warming has happened many times before in human history. Note the steepness of the rise in temperature at the beginning of the Minoan warm period.
This rate of warming far exceeds that of the current warm period. According to their study of boreholes worldwide, the global mean temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period dwarf the changes of the Twentieth Century. In fact, the normal global mean temperature for planet earth given the Phanerozoic history, is actually Neither the Hallam sea level curve, nor the Exxon sea level curve correlates reliably with variations in temperature throughout the Phanerozoic.
However, the response of sea level to temperature does appear to increase as continental landmass becomes less clustered. For example, during the late Ordovician glaciation, sea levels fell only slightly in comparison to later glacial periods such as the last ice age.
What is interesting is the persistent rise and fall of mean sea level during glaciation.
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While mean sea level appears to follow the major trends in temperature throughout a number of epochs across the Phanerozoic, Jurassic and Triassic mean sea levels are lowest when the temperature is highest. In spite of common direct correlations, the almost equally common inverse correlations between temperature and sea level suggests that something other than global mean temperature controls sea level. As such, the lithosphere can be buoyed up where it is lighter and sag where it is heavier.
Isostatic reaction describes the process known as, "unloading", where there is a tectonic rebound of continental plates that are are stripped of a mass of either rock by erosion or ice by melting , combined with increased mass in ocean basins Watts, This has been used to explain why in many cases sea level is documented as having risen in response to cooling and fallen in response to warming Lisitzin, For example, sea levels actually fell during the steady rise in temperature prior to the temperature maximum at the end of the middle Ordovician.
This dwarfed the minor rise and fall of sea level during the late Ordovician glaciation. For the larger part, sea levels were very low during the Carboniferous-Permian Glaciation, but the fluctuations of the period saw minor rises in sea level in response to minor cooling and minor falls in sea level in response to minor warming.
Of greater significance is the minor response in sea level at the same time as the major temperature peak in the Triassic that is followed by a large scale rise in sea level as temperatures fall drastically into the Jurassic period. This inverse correlation stops at the break-up of Gondwana, and sea levels have appeared to follow temperature more accurately since the beginning of the Cretaceous about million years ago.
These anomalies in the relationship between sea level and global mean temperature are confirmed by independent studies utilising different methods Hallam et al.
As it turns out, anomalous response of sea level to temperature continues until Gondwana moves away from the South Pole and begins to break up. Modern studies of sea level including both those using sparsely distributed tide gauges and those using satellite altimeter logs have shown the global mean sea level is also influenced by the seasons Chen et al.
Modern satellite measurements of sea level confirm this complexity of sea level response, showing for example a 30mm per annum rise in the eastern Indian and western Pacific oceans against a simultaneous 10mm per annum fall in the western Indian Ocean with a global average sea level rise of 4mm per year over the years Church et al. The geological evidence shows that mean sea level is more likely to rise in response to global warming if there is sufficient continental dissemination away from the poles and that the tendency for isostatic sea level reaction inverse correlation with temperature is heightened by increased rifting, which generalisation corresponds to modern observations of minor global sea level fluctuations eg.
Although Cainozoic sea level and temperature responses do correlate, this correlation is tenuous at best in view of geological history, and an understanding the other mechanisms that cause mean sea level variations would lend itself to more reliable statements about the impact of global warming on mean sea level.
The impact of such mechanisms as el Nino and decadal mechanisms such as volcanism raise questions about studies of limited duration, such as the satellite record used by Church et al. Tide gauge data has supported the suggestion that global mean sea level has risen mm over the last century along a non-geometric trend Douglas, However geologically stable the setting of a tide gauge, no ocean is independent of isostatic response and therefore global mean sea level can only be be determined reliably from truly global data such as satellite altimeter logs, taken over at least a century of measurement.
While we are beginning to understand the numerous mechanisms that effect sea level, we have insufficient empirical evidence to draw any conclusion about the current global mean sea level trends independent of decadal, annual, and monthly processes. Nevertheless, in the event sea levels do rise in response to a relative increase in mean global temperature, it is well worth asking whether the land area made available by retreating ice will exceed the land area flooded by rising sea levels.
Evidently, as the earth cools the growth of ice caps removes water from the atmosphere leaving less water for precipitation. In fact, the association of desertification with the Permian Ice Age is so well accepted that it is even reported by the Penguin Encyclopaedia as the only other key feature of the Permian apart from glaciation. White connects the post-settlement aridification of Australia with deforestation rather than climate change.
The most recent drought in Australia began during a mild temperature minimum in that was compounded by a much more severe temperature minimum in late based on satellite measurements of Tropospheric mean temperature.