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Global Warming or Climate Chaos?

What caused the ice ages to come and go? Could such events happen again? Nineteenth century scientists studying these questions discovered interesting possibilities that led to the first theory of Global Warming. Several familiar atmospheric gases including methane and carbon dioxide were found to be transparent to visible light but opaque to infrared light. Could these gases be a key to the ice ages?

While energy from the Sun warms the earth, energy also radiates from earth back into space, keeping the global temperature in balance. Scientists recognized that “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere could trap outgoing energy radiation, and if their concentrations increased, so would global temperatures. Some considered the huge amounts of carbon dioxide generated by burning coal and oil to power industrial societies, and began to wonder if these activities would impact the earth's climate in the future.

Graph showing historic increases in CO2 Concentration

For more than 90 years, the only thing on which scientists could all agree was that the question needed more study. And study they did! Thousands upon thousands of observations, measurements, experiments, and analyses of volumes of data from around the globe tested every imaginable possibility. Many rival theories (like the impacts of sunspots, water vapor, and dust particles) were proposed and tested extensively. The advent of the space age, supercomputers, core-drilling technology, and worldwide communication added immensely to the scientists' capabilities.

Eventually the results were sufficiently clear to convince the vast majority of climate scientists that human-induced global warming is real and is a very serious problem. By the end of the 20 th century, only a few pseudo-scientists—typically shills for big oil companies—remained skeptical. Unfortunately, their opinions found favor with “conservative” politicians and an oil-addicted public, and the world's biggest global warming offender failed to embark even on the relatively painless reforms of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Upsala Glacier - 1928 & 2004

So, being reluctant to change, we now plunge headlong toward the biggest change in civilization's history. “Global Warming” turns out to have been a misleading term. While an increase in average global temperatures is part of the phenomenon, it is perhaps the least significant measurement of the changes that are now occurring. “Climate Chaos” seems more descriptive of the era ahead, with extreme weather events like hurricanes, cyclones, droughts, blizzards, monsoons, etc. occurring with increasing frequency and with dramatic impacts on agriculture, wildlife, diseases, and social & political interactions. Some parts of the planet will be cooler as a result of Global Warming! Other parts are already experiencing much hotter weather.

Muir Point, Alaska - 1899 & 2003

And just as Global Warming theory took a long time to be accepted among scientists, the newer theories of “Abrupt Climate Change” are now undergoing extensive debate and analysis. These theories propose that radical climate changes can occur within the frame of a decade or less, rather than gradually over centuries as previously assumed. Still, our science is not sufficiently advanced to predict the exact dates on which specific climate changes will occur. They could happen in 50 years or this year! Such uncertainty prompts the oil-soaked shills to continue their chant, “It needs more study—we can't afford to do anything now!” It's as if we learned that our municipal water supply had been contaminated with cyanide, but we keep drinking because scientists aren't sure if the poison is concentrated enough to kill us in 1 year or in 5 years.

Carroll Glacier, Alaska - 1906 & 2004

As our leaders debate how to increase the petroleum supply, they only increase the problem. If real “conservatives” were in charge, they would apply “conservation” to quickly achieve many times the impact of drilling in the ANWR. Can we overcome our petroleum addiction before the earth's climate becomes too unstable to grow food for its residents?

Muir Inlet, Alaska - 1941 & 2004

While we wait for our government to do something, biodiesel is one path that individuals can take to make a difference. We can at least take action to ensure that no waste vegetable oil actually goes to waste! Instead of dumping waste oil into landfills, we can convert it to biodiesel and use it in place of petroleum. It's a small step, but one that requires no waiting – let's go!

Countertops Shelbyville - december 2011 Countertops granite empire.