From the March 2008 Creation Answers Newsletter
by Wayne Spencer
There is much in the news in recent months about the issue of global warming. Recent findings against the arguments for global warming made me feel compelled to address this in my newsletter. It seems there is a consensus among most of the scientific community that the warming trend in Earth's climate is caused by human beings by what are called "greenhouse emissions" or "carbon emissions" from man made technology. The chief emissions of concern in this discussion are carbon dioxide, methane, and cloroflourocarbons (CFC's). Carbon dioxide is the main gas of interest because though it is only a minor constituent of our atmosphere, it is much more prevalent than methane or CFCs. Carbon dioxide is given off by automobile engines and many factory processes where fossil fuels are burned. Most of the mainstream media are following the line saying that if humans do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions there will be terrible consequences for the world. The issue of global warming has effectively escalated out of the scientific arena to the political arena. For a long time I personally did not have much of an opinion on the issue. But recently there has been a growing scientific voice against the warnings of the global warming community. After reading more about the science of the issue, it seems clearer than ever to me that this is another issue where scientists have allowed their personal biases to lead them off the line of truth. It has become similar to the creation versus evolution issue in that there is so much emotional investment in the global warming position not because of facts or the science but because of world view assumptions and ideology. This was mentioned in a recent article in the Arizona Republic, "The issue of global warming has stirred passions not unlike the battle over evolution, similarly dragging scientists into the political arena to defend their research."
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The debate over climate change could have great practical ramifications because there are now efforts to pass new laws and put in place international standards to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. The trouble with this is that the strict recommendations for industry could put such a burden on corporations and governments around the world that there is concern for how it could actually cause more suffering in some nations where resources would be better spent feeding the poor and building economies. In the United States, if some of the carbon emissions legislation is passed, it is likely to drive up fuel and energy costs higher than they already are.
What I am saying is essentially in agreement with an open letter that was presented to the United Nations in December 2007 by the Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-Moon. This letter was presented at a recent U.N. global climate conference and was signed by a significant list of individuals, most of whom are scientists, some quite well known. This letter can be read on the website of the National Post.
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Following is an extended quote from this letter:
"The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued increasingly alarming conclusions about the climatic influences of human-produced carbon dioxide (CO2), a non-polluting gas that is essential to plant photosynthesis. While we understand the evidence that has led them to view CO2 emissions as harmful, the IPCC's conclusions are quite inadequate as justification for implementing policies that will markedly diminish future prosperity. In particular, it is not established that it is possible to significantly alter global climate through cuts in human greenhouse gas emissions. On top of which, because attempts to cut emissions will slow development, the current UN approach of CO2 reduction is likely to increase human suffering from future climate change rather than to decrease it."
The letter also said "We therefore need to equip nations to become resilient to the full range of these natural phenomena by promoting economic growth and wealth generation." In other words, implementing restrictive regulations against carbon emissions would probably actually distract corporations and governments around the world from dealing with the real needs of people. There may be real problems in various local regions that result from climate changes, but those are the kind of issues human beings have always had to deal with all through history. Disaster preparedness may be an issue human beings need to address, but expecting to prevent natural disasters by restricting carbon dioxide emissions is just not realistic. Climate changes may affect animal life in some regions as well. Thus sometimes there may be something human beings can and should do to help animals that may be losing their habitat, for example. But none of this is indicative necessarily that there is a long term global problem caused by human beings. Usually living things can move or adapt to minor climate changes.
New strict carbon emission standards are not needed for several reasons. New carbon emission standards are not likely to significantly change whatever may be happening with Earth's climate. To sum up the global warming issue briefly, 1) carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and should not be thought of as a pollutant, 2) as a minor constituent of Earth's atmosphere carbon dioxide is not the most significant greenhouse substance, and 3) carbon emissions by human beings do not have a measurable effect on climate because there are so many other larger effects that are more significant, and 4) the various natural processes that determine Earth's long term climate are designed by God to be self-regulating and to prevent dangerous climate extremes.
Design of Earth’s Climate
The question of global warming and climate change is fundamentally about God's design of the Earth. There may indeed be a warming of Earth's climate, though even that is debatable. But the key questions are a) could mankind be to blame, b) would any actions taken by mankind really make a difference, and c) will the climate change resolve itself without mankind's help? First of all, advocates of global warming being a serious problem treat carbon dioxide as if it is a pollutant, but it really isn't. Carbon dioxide is a natural constituent of Earth's atmosphere (about 0.04% of atmospheric gases, methane is much less). It is true that it is one of a number of "greenhouse gases." A greenhouse gas is a substance that tends to convert ultraviolet light from the Sun to infrared, which heats the atmosphere the same way it gets hot inside a car that has been exposed to the sunlight on a hot day. In this process, the air in the car is heated by the infrared radiation coming from materials in the car. But, carbon dioxide is not the most important "greenhouse gas" in Earth's atmosphere. Water vapor is actually much more significant in it's greenhouse effects. But because of how water vapor often changes state from gas to liquid or to solid and its form and concentration varies with humidity and cloud cover, it is extremely complex and difficult to predict how it might effect climate over the long term. Predicting global climate, especially over long periods of time, seems to be well beyond what our science is capable of at this time.
Isaiah 45:18 in the Old Testament says that God made the Earth "to be inhabited." In many origins issues scientists have often seriously underestimated the complexity of life and the physical prerequisites for life. God has designed the Earth as a system with "checks and balances" which prevent climate from getting out of control. There are many aspects to how the Earth is designed to support life. It's orbital distance from the Sun and the nature of the Sun itself are important factors that determine our climate, as well as Earth's tilt, but there are still many other factors that affect Earth's climate. There are multiple interacting and competing processes involved in what determines the climate we experience. If a process tends to amplify the greenhouse heating effect, climate researchers refer to it as a positive feedback. But if an Earth process works opposite the greenhouse heating effect and thus limits or moderates the heating, it is known as negative feedback. Everyone learns even in elementary science that heat is transferred by radiation, convection, and conduction. The greenhouse heating effect is heat transfer by infrared radiation. If that were the only type of heat transfer in the atmosphere, it would be so hot at Earth's surface that we may not be able to survive except perhaps near the Earth's poles. Convection creates movements of air that even out temperatures and limit how much the greenhouse effect can raise the temperature.
The most significant factor to consider with greenhouse warming is what happens with water in the atmosphere. It is necessary to understand how water is important to the climate we experience. Water is an unusual substance with a high heat capacity and the temperature and pressure in Earth's atmosphere are in just the right range to allow many movements of water and changes in its state from liquid to gas, liquid to solid, gas to liquid, etc. Thus water is able to circulate and move throughout Earth's atmosphere and transfer heat in a number of ways. Since there is so much water on the Earth, it is crucially important for moderating and determining the climate. Some changes of state in water happens in clouds but clouds affect the greenhouse effect in multiple ways. Clouds absorb sunlight and so they can reduce the radiation making its way to the surface (a negative feedback, cooling the atmosphere). They can also absorb infrared radiation that comes from the surface, which can heat the atmosphere (positive feedback). There are often multiple layers of clouds in the atmosphere at different altitudes and the water content of the atmosphere varies greatly with altitude. So, clouds can produce either positive or negative feedback in relation to the greenhouse effect. Climate scientists today are finding there are a number of negative feedback effects that limit how much greenhouse heating there could be due to gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and CFC's. In the strong claims often made about the dangers of global warming, the various moderating effects related to water are unduly neglected.
There are also effects that complicate determining whether there is any long term changes in temperature. Thus some alarming predictions of rises in temperature made by global warming advocates have not been measured in reality. There have been many estimates of how increases in the amount of carbon dioxide will increase the global average temperature. One researcher, Patrick Michaels, who is on the U.N. panel on climate change (the IPCC) was involved in a study looking at how temperature measurements were done in weather monitoring stations. They were examining whether some of the evidence claimed to suggest global warming could actually be what's called "urban warming," a well-known effect around major cities. They found that temperature measurements were often associated with many socioeconomic indicators around cities and temperature measurements are often done in inappropriate locations that bias them toward higher temperatures. Thus, because of how people tend to move from rural to urban areas (true all over the world) and urban centers are warmer than surrounding areas, coupled with the weather station measurement problems, this explains some of the observed warming. Michaels and his colleagues concluded that global warming was about half what had been previously estimated when these effects were taken into account. Their research was published in a major scientific journal, the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. Unfortunately their findings have not received much media attention. A web page summarizing their findings is
There have been many computer simulations of the effects of increasing greenhouse gases on Earth's climate. Some scientists are now challenging the results of studies promoting the global warming agenda. According to Richard Lindzen, a well known climate scientist from MIT, some of these studies overestimate the heating effect of carbon dioxide because they do not adequately account for other competing processes, often related to water vapor, rain, and clouds. There has been an increase in carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere in recent years but this has not made a significant change in temperature and even doubling the amount of CO2 probably would only have a very trivial effect. Some researchers have estimated that the amount of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere in the past has been as much as 10 to 18 times present amounts and thus any change in carbon emissions from human beings is likely to have a very small effect. I would not completely trust all the conclusions of these studies because of their old age assumptions but is reasonable that human emissions of greenhouse gases would have only a trivial effect. Note that there are real changes in temperature in certain regions but Earth is able to vary in average temperature to some degree and life can usually adapt to it. Examples have been cited by global warming advocates for instance of melting icebergs or certain places where polar bears may be losing some of their habitat. These examples do not support global warming because there is not really a net decrease in glacial cover all areas considered. While glaciers in some areas may be decreasing, they are expanding in many other areas. Also Polar bears have greatly increased in numbers in recent years, so there is little real danger to them overall. So, exceptions in particular areas do not support the general argument for global warming. Life has adapted to climate change throughout Earth history. Human beings are sometimes more able to adapt to climate changes than other creatures.
In recent years climate researchers have discovered something about Earth's clouds that is known as the "Iris Effect." The Iris Effect was proposed by Richard Lindzen. Though it has been a somewhat controversial idea, recent observations seem to confirm it. The Iris Effect is the tendency of certain clouds to moderate how heat is able to escape into space so that the temperature we experience at the surface is prevented from becoming too extreme. When it is very hot this tends to drive clouds to dissipate. Because Earth has a transparent atmosphere, this allows infrared radiation from near the surface to reach the upper atmosphere and thus the energy escapes into space. But when it is cooler at the surface, cloud cover increases and this prevents the infrared from transferring heat out into space. The low level clouds absorb the heat and then the lower atmosphere is kept warmer. This seems very much like a mechanism tailored what life on Earth needs to survive.
Doctor Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist in climate studies at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. He has been outspoken against global warming. He was involved with a group of researchers that looked into the iris effect and found empirical evidence confirming it was real and significant for climate. He recently wrote an article expressing his frustration with the fact that the global warming idea now seems too ingrained for people to listen to contrary evidence: "The fact is that so much money and effort have gone into the theory that mankind is 100 percent responsible for climate change that it now seems too late to turn back. Entire careers (including my own) depend upon the threat of global warming. Politicians have also jumped aboard the Global Warming Express, and this train has no brakes." (To read a nontechnical article from Dr. Spencer, see http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm?aid=828 .)
This iris-type mechanism is not always possible on other planets and moons in our solar system. Even if this mechanism did happen on other planets and moons it would not have the same significance it has on Earth. Venus, for example, has a very thick atmosphere that is not transparent, thus heat cannot escape into space very effectively. Venus' atmosphere has thick clouds (made up of mainly sulfuric acid) that never clear away and the greenhouse effect in Venus' atmosphere is extreme compared to Earth, making it very hot. Mars' atmosphere is transparent but it is very thin and cold, and water is in the form of ice. On Mars there are limited clouds from time to time; and there may even be an iris-type effect. But Martian clouds would not be significant in moderating temperature. Saturn's moon Titan has an atmosphere even thicker than Earth's and even somewhat like Earth's. Titan does have clouds and is likely to rain methane and ethane. Titan's lower atmosphere may be mostly transparent but, its upper atmosphere is dominated by organic hazes (similar to smog). The hazes on Titan never clear away and thus infrared cannot transfer heat out into space. It is also extremely cold on Titan so any Iris Effect on Titan would not have much effect on temperature. It seems that on all these worlds something like the Iris Effect would be unlikely to moderate temperature significantly, but on Earth the Iris Effect is significant in helping maintain a livable climate for us.
The Limitations of Climate Science
Richard Lindzen (apparently not a creationist) has spoken out against global warming. He indicates that todays computer models are very inadequate in their ability to handle water vapor in computer simulations. Scientists sometimes just don't know enough about the physics. Models are "tuned" to give the desired results. Approximations and questionable assumptions are programmed in to keep the simulation working and giving useful results. So there is a tendency for some climate researchers to bias the simulations toward results that show more warming than is realistic. The inability of the simulations to properly deal with the effects of water vapor and clouds tends to lead to higher than reasonable amounts of greenhouse warming. Dr. Lindzen makes the following interesting statement about people being sometimes overly swayed by claims based on computer simulations. "Unfortunately, there is a tendency to hold in awe anything that emerges from a sufficiently large computer." There are often such problems with computer simulations in science but the issue is being honest and realistic in reporting the results of computer studies. The conclusion regarding the computer studies is that there is no reason for alarm from claims that the temperature will rise and cause mankind serious problems. Earth's climate seems to be able to manage itself in terms of the greenhouse effect.
There is probably not merely a single cause of long term climate change, but one possible source of change may be the Sun, rather than human technology. The Sun has very complex magnetic fields that affect our weather. Sunspots are formed in magnetic eruptions on the Sun. The more sunspots the stronger the Sun's magnetic field is and the more it deflects galactic cosmic rays. Galactic cosmic rays are charged particles that come from outside our solar system. These consist of a variety of charged subatomic particles. There are also charged particles that come from our Sun. The charged particles from the galaxy and from the Sun itself constantly flow through our solar system and affect Earth's upper atmosphere and thus our weather. Cosmic rays seem to be related to how much low level cloud cover there is over the oceans through a complex series of particle effects in Earth's atmosphere. When there are more frequent sunspots, the cosmic rays reaching Earth are weaker (the flux is lower to be more precise). Weaker cosmic rays means less cloud formation and this allows the ocean and lower atmosphere to be warmed slightly. Thus, if the reverse occurs, the Sun's magnetic field being weaker (fewer sunspots) leads to more intense cosmic rays penetrating Earth's atmosphere, generating more cloud cover over the oceans and this cools the lower atmosphere.
This is all relevant to the global warming issue because the Sun has recently been in a period of intense magnetic activity known as a grand maxima. This grand maxima has lasted from approximately 1940 to the present. This maxima is likely causing some slow warming of Earth's atmosphere. Some related comments come from the journal Physics Today from March 2008. Physics Today published an opinion letter from two researchers who did some sophisticated statistical analyses of solar fluctuations and related them to Earth's climate. One of these researchers is from the Duke University Physics department and the other is from the U.S. Army Research Office. They argue there is a link between changes in Earth's climate and changes in the Sun. They speak of the "complexity of the Earth being linked to the complexity of the Sun." Some scientists are now arguing that the Sun will soon turn around and move into a period of less activity and this could start a period of cooling. Indeed some argue that this cooling period due to the Sun has already begun. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the recent winter months from December 2007 through February 2008 have been the coolest months since 2001 for the United States and for the globe. Though these winter months were relatively warm in some U.S. states, this was more than made up for by the cold temperatures and extensive winter precipitation in other parts of the U.S.
My conclusions from looking deeper into the global warming issue are first of all that we can be thankful for how God has designed the Earth with "checks and balances" that maintain a livable climate for us. Earth's climate is designed to be able to compensate for and even out various climate effects. Earth's atmosphere, the abundance of water on Earth, and even the nature of the Sun are all factors in what determines the temperature we experience. There are real pollutants that humans produce that we should definitely be concerned about. But we should not waste billions of dollars trying to do something that is not only impossible but not needed, and which perhaps could increase human suffering around the world from the economic burden it could create.
1. Open letter to the UN against global warming: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=164002
2. Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus, Richard S. Lindzen, http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv15n2/reg15n2g.html
3. Evidence from NASA & NOAA for the Iris effect, from Nov 1, 2007
4. R. W. Spencer, W. D. Braswell, J. R. Christy, and J. Hnilo (2007), Cloud and radiation budget changes associated with tropical intraseasonal oscillations, Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L15707, doi:10.1029/2007GL029698.
5. Article by Roy Spencer, March 20, 2008 article. Affirms the Iris effect. "The Sloppy Science of Global Warming"
6. On the link between Solar changes and Earth climate. Grand minima and maxima of solar activity: new observational constraints, by I. G. Usoskin, S. K. Solanki, and G. A. Kovaltsov, Astronomy & Astrophysics, vol 471, pp 301-309, 2007.
7. Harvard Gazette article suggesting Sun may be bigger factor than humans
8. Site of James A. Marusek, http://personals.galaxyinternet.net/tunga/ "The Nature of the Sun’s Influence on Climate Change"
9. Cold winter for 2007/2008 season, from NOAA. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2008/20080313_coolest.html
10. On the polar bear population growth and problems with the EPA.
11. Newspaper article about skeptical scientists, compares issue to evolution
12. Carter, R M, 2007. The Myth of Dangerous Human-Caused Climate Change, in Proceedings The AusIMM 2007 New Leaders’ Conference, pp 61-74 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne). Available from: http://www.shop.ausimm.com.au/paperdetails.php?PaperID=2553
13. "Is climate sensitive to solar variability?" Nicola Scafetta and Bruce J. West, Physics Today, March 2008, American Institute of Physics, pp 50-51.
14. "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" Arthur B. Robinson, Noah E. Robinson, and Willie Soon, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 12 Number 3 Fall 2007.
15. S. Fred Singer, ed., "Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change," Chicago, IL: The Heartland Institute, 2008.
16. (Paper critical of Lindzen's Iris Effect) "Tropical cirrus and water vapor: an effective Earth infrared iris feedback?", Q. Fu, M. Baker, and D. L. Hartmann, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 2, 31–37, 2002.
17. Reply to: “Tropical cirrus and water vapor: an effective Earth infrared iris feedback?”, M.-D. Chou, R. S. Lindzen, and A. Y. Hou, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 2, 99–101, 2002, European Geophysical Society.
(Avail. from http://overview.sref.org/1680-7324/acp/2002-2-99 )
18. "35 Inconvenient Truths: The Errors of Al Gore's Movie," Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, October 18, 2007, Science and Public Policy Institute, 209 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 299, Washington, D.C 20003. http://www.scienceandpublicpolicy.org
19. "Scientific Consensus on Global Warming: Results of an international survey of climate scientists", Joseph Bast and James M. Taylor, Published by The Heartland Institute, 2007.
20. "Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor", Roy W. Spencer, pub. 2008 by Encounter Books.
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