*Editors note: For an succinct overview of Randall’s research regarding “climate change” you can view the video of his interview with RealitySandwich.com entitled,“Climate Change: A Catastrophist’s Perspective” for a better understanding of his perspective.
I am responding to the question you raised regarding my opinion of the New York Times article on the recent work of physicist Richard Muller on climate change. You asked: “Can you look at his data and still maintain our recent temperature increases are just an anomaly?” My first impression is that you have not understood my position on this issue. To clarify that position, I would state that I do not consider the present warming of the climate to be an anomaly, rather I believe that the present scale and rate of climate change is well within the range of natural variability, and is, therefore, not anomalous at all. This opinion is based upon nearly three decades of in-depth study into the matter of climate change over multiple time scales. What has become apparent, from an ever growing body of evidence, from many diverse sources, is that the climate of the past has constantly changed, with a range of variability far exceeding anything experienced within recent history, say for example, since the inception of the Industrial Revolution.
Certainly you must be aware that our planet has undergone a series of glacial-interglacial ages, with the most recent great Ice Age ending only 10,000 years ago. The termination of that ice age was truly a global warming event. From a variety of proxies, most especially isotopic studies of ice cores extracted from glacial ice in Antarctica, Greenland and numerous mountain glaciers, it has become apparent that the warming that accompanied the shift out of the most recent ice age was extreme in its severity and catastrophically fast, perhaps as much as 15 to 20 degrees C in less than a decade. This is many times more intense than the .8 C degree warming of the last two centuries. In fact there were two catastrophic warming episodes at the close of the ice age separated by a 1400 year, equally fast, return to full glacial cold. As of this writing there is no agreed upon explanation for this climate change event. I will not at this point digress into the subject of what that warming did to the 6 million cubic miles of glacial ice piled up over the North American and European continents, nor the consequences of a very rapid, 400 foot sea level rise (!!) resulting from the melting of that glacial ice, except to say that the ensuing floods could only be described as biblical in scale, causing environmental havoc on a scale almost impossible to visualize. I will add that very few scientists are yet to be truly aware of the extraordinarily catastrophic nature of the events accompanying the planetary shift out of the last Ice Age. Coming to grips with natural climate changes of a scale and intensity of that most recent glacial termination, constitutes, in my opinion, the paramount unresolved scientific question of our time. It may, in fact, have led to the near extermination of the human race.
Additionally, ongoing studies of the palaeoclimate record are revealing numerous other extreme climate changes occurring over multiple time scales, none of which can be blamed on anthropogenic consumption of fossil fuels. Throughout the 10,000 years of the Holocene (the current geological epoch in which we find ourselves) the natural variability of the global temperature appears to have ranged from about 2 to 4 degrees C over time scales ranging from decades to centuries. From the ice core records it is apparent that at no time has there been any significant period of stable climate, rather it has been in a constant state of flux; and, human societies have frequently been the victims of the planets’ natural climate variability.
In regards to recent history, I would like to remind you that between roughly the mid 14th century and the mid 19th century, the planet was in the grip of what climatologists refer to as the Little Ice Age (LIA). It is acknowledged that this period included some of the coldest centuries since the end of the Great Ice Age. Worldwide, glaciers grew to their greatest extent in 10,000 years. The annals of European history are replete with well documented episodes of whole villages that had existed for centuries, being overrun by the massively growing glaciers. These glaciers began to recede with the global warming that commenced in the early to mid 19th century and have been receding more or less uniformly to this day. Let me here emphasize an important point, the recession of modern glaciers began at least a full century before the introduction of significant amounts of carbon dioxide to the global atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.
Prior to the onset of the LIA the planet enjoyed a period of warmth, usually referred to as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) that began with the close of the Dark Ages, about 950 AD. That this period was at least as warm as today, more likely warmer than today, is evidenced by the fact that Scandinavians were able to colonize and farm the west coast of Greenland where today the ground is perennially frozen. In addition, vineyards flourished in England some 500 km (300 miles) further north than they exist today. Many mountain regions around the globe exhibit evidence of farming at elevations many hundreds of feet higher than is possible at present. Some studies point to a significantly higher sea level during the MWP, perhaps as much as 2 to 4 feet, which of course implies a substantially reduced glacial mass relative to the present. Al Gore in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth used statistical sleight-of-hand to conceal the reality of the Medieval Warm Period and most of his audience, as far as I can tell, naively accepted his dismissal of a very real, well documented climate phenomenon.
Obviously the MWP cannot be blamed on the burning of fossil fuels.
Interestingly, during the MWP human society flourished, primarily because the warmer climate allowed for a longer growing season, as well as a greater geographic range for the practice of agriculture. This enhanced condition for farming resulted in crop surpluses, which resulted in a better fed, better nourished population. This led in turn to a significant increase in human population during this time, with associated longer life spans, decreased infant mortality and increased leisure time that advanced the potential for learning, the transmission of knowledge and the cultivation of the Arts. It was midway through the MWP that European society saw the inception of the great cathedral building era, made possible entirely by the factors mentioned above, when there was enough surplus food and consequent social wealth to support armies of artisans, craftsmen, masons, glaziers, sculptors, engineers, carpenters, astronomers, etc. It is no coincidence that the end of the cathedral building era in the early 14 century coincided with the onset of the Little Ice Age and the ensuing harsher conditions that were the consequence of a cooling climate. Nor is it any coincidence that the repeated crop failures, associated with the onset of LIA cold, led to a malnourished population, which in turn led to weakened immune systems, which in turn was followed by the onset of plague epidemics that wiped out as much as one third of the European population. Historically, periods of warmth have been periods of population growth, improved living conditions and social progress generally, while periods of cold have seen famines, pestilence, population declines, and social deterioration.
Now in regards to Mullers’ work, which was covered by the New York Times, I will say this: (while trying not to get too technical) to come up with a temperature that truly represents a global average is a very tricky business. It must rely on three different sources of information: ground based temperature sensors, weather balloon based sensors and satellite sensors. Each of these will yield somewhat different results. Muller and company employed ground based sensors which are known to have a bias. He claims to have adjusted for this bias but this claim has been disputed by others. All surface temp stations are categorized according to their perceived reliability. Many ground surface temperature stations have been compromised by the Urban Heat Island effect, which means simply that as urban development occurs in certain areas near the surface observing stations, the temperature rises locally, because of reduced vegetation cover, increased amounts of heat absorbing asphalt, concrete, buildings, proximity to AC condenser units and other machinery, etc, etc. This temperature increase is very real but has nothing to do with increases of CO2 gas in the atmosphere. If an observing station was originally sited in a rural or semi-rural location, and that location has undergone development, causing the local environment to retain more heat, which is the case for the majority of currently operational stations, it will give a false positive. It has been pointed out that Muller used a reliability rating for temperature stations that is over a decade old. New reliability ratings have recently become available and when they are applied at least half of the presumed average global temperature increase disappears. For an in-depth discussion of this issue see the paper “An area and distance weighted analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends.”
Second, his failure to find a solar signal in his computer model, implying that the Sun is not playing a role, is contradicted by masses of evidence collected over a period of decades by solar physicists, astronomers and astrophysicists. Solar physics is a complex area of research but an enormous amount of data supports a significant role for the Sun in determining global temperatures. Think for a moment upon the profound difference in temperature that occurs between daytime and nighttime at any given time of year, or between summer and winter, both examples being totally the result of the amount of solar insolation penetrating the Earth’s atmosphere. In the case of annual summer/winter changes, they are due entirely to nothing more than the angle at which the Suns’ rays penetrate the atmosphere, with only a few degrees angular change manifesting in a substantial change in temperature. Also, new evidence regularly emerges suggesting that the solar constant is not invariable. Even a small change in solar output could be amplified through a variety of feedback mechanisms, and research in this area is ongoing. Again, climate changes in the past that utterly dwarf anything experienced in recent times obviously cannot be blamed upon anthropogenic fossil fuel burning. So what does that leave? Clearly the Sun must be a prime candidate. For more on the subject of solar contribution to global warming see “SOLAR ACTIVITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE—A SUMMARY” and “Sunspots do impact climate”
Another point I would like to make is in reference to the quote extracted from the New York Times article that you reference. It states: “The average land temperature on earth has risen 2.5° F. over the past 250 years essentially all of it caused by human emission of greenhouse gases.” Now it is acknowledged by all concerned that the amount of greenhouse gases introduced into the global atmosphere by humans, predominantly carbon dioxide gas as a result of fossil fuel combustion, was insignificant prior to the 1940s and virtually non-existent prior to the First World War, in other words humans have been contributing significant amounts of CO2 for only the final one quarter of the 250 years allotted for the temperature rise of 2.5 degrees F. That being the case, it should be obvious that about 180 years of rising temperature preceded a human contribution of carbon dioxide gas to the atmosphere, and, therefore, had to be the result of other factors. Are the authors of the New York Times article so unmindful that such an obvious contradiction goes unnoticed? Or are they so committed to a slanted interpretation of the evidence that the contradiction doesn’t matter, and they are confidently counting upon less discerning readers to simply fail to catch the contradiction?
A final point I would like to make, out of many possible that I cannot address due to time constraints is this: Not a single all time, state high temperature record has been set since the year 1995, when a temperature of 106° F was recorded in Danbury, Connecticut. On July 15, 2006, a temperature of 120° F was recorded in South Dakota, tying its previous record from July 5 of the year 1936. The number of state all time record high temperatures set in the 1990s was 5, the same number of all time highs recorded for the 1950s and for the decade from 1910 to 1920. Of all 50 states, exactly half experienced record high temperatures during the 1930s. This is powerful evidence that, at least for North America, the 1930s was the hottest decade since comprehensive instrumented record keeping began in the 19th century. And again, the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere during that decade was negligible.
I want to make it clear that I do believe humans are affecting the climate. However, that being said, it is evident that the extent of this effect is questionable. The climate of the Earth is an extraordinarily complex system. To claim, as many proponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming do, that the debate on climate change is over, is simply absurd and potentially dangerous as well. The reaction on the part of AGW proponents to legitimate scientific skepticism is quite disgraceful, in my opinion. To refer to anyone who questions AGW dogmas— such as the claim that there is a ‘consensus’ amongst all climate scientists, or the claim that the debate on climate change is over— as a climate change ‘denier’ in an effort to associate them with Holocaust deniers, or ‘industry stooges’ secretly funded by an insidious cabal of professional sowers of doubt, is nothing more than a cowardly tactic to avoid real debate. Many respected climate scientists have been slandered by AGW advocates simply because their research contradicts the claim that humans are the sole cause of climate change. It is vitally important that we learn to differentiate between the science of climate change and the politics of climate change. These are two very different animals. The proponents of AGW as a political agenda are advocating policies that would mandate virtually complete control of the global economy by bureaucratic elites in the name of controlling carbon emissions. However, the command and control systems they advocate will do nothing to prevent the climate from changing naturally, as it has done repeatedly throughout the history of the Earth, but will do everything to stifle freedom and the real progress that can eventually diminish our reliance on fossil fuels. Just as we should be skeptical of industry funded research, so we should be equally skeptical of government funded research, and at this writing the funding for the IPCC is many times greater than all verified industry funding put together, in spite of the claims of the AGW faction. A bit of investigative research will confirm the veracity of this assertion.
One of the primary concerns of my professional business is the reduction of energy consumption in homes and buildings, which now constitutes about 1⁄2 of energy consumption in America. We do this by employing techniques of energy efficient design and construction as well as extensive retrofitting of existing buildings. In some cases we can reduce energy consumption by as much as 50 to 75% of current levels. Ironically, one of the biggest obstacles I run into is government regulations which artificially drive up the cost of performing this service, thus making it unaffordable to many building owners. Additionally, as just one example, I constantly have battles with Historic Preservation committees that refuse to allow the changing of original leaky, energy wasting, single-glazed windows with new energy efficient models, based upon ‘aesthetic’ considerations, even though the new windows are virtually indistinguishable from the originals. Instead of bureaucratic obstacles acting as a disincentive for property owners to make changes that would save energy, as well as operating costs, how about simple tax breaks that would give owners a dollar for dollar rebate for the implementation of energy conservation measures? However, that would be too simple and not give the bureaucrats control of our lives. When you have a government that squanders a trillion and a half dollars of borrowed money each year, it cannot afford to reduce its’ revenues by giving folks additional tax incentives. Ditto for Health Insurance, of course that’s another issue, but the principle is exactly the same— give my business a dollar for dollar tax break for health insurance costs and all my employees would have had health insurance years ago. And the same goes for millions of other small businesses around the country, but of course that’s too simple and it does not give the government bureaucrats control over our lives. Instead we have 2500+ pages of the “Affordable Health Care Act” that nobody has read, not even the congressional representatives that voted for it. Anybody who actually believes that the Government running our health care is going to reduce the cost of health care is living on a make-believe planet.
But back to the subject at hand, if you are sincerely interested in learning more about the climate of planet Earth, which I would heartily recommend, I can provide you with copious references and sources to many aspects of this vitally important and interesting subject. On the other hand, I recognize that it is easier simply to accept the pronouncements of supposed authorities when those assertions are compatible with ones’ own philosophical preferences, rather than undertaking the somewhat arduous task of an independent investigation into a complex scientific subject. I hope you do not fall into that category.
Climate change is a very real and very important issue. We cannot afford to allow the debate to be hijacked by true believers or by those who have a major stake in the outcome, and that includes the likes of Al Gore and his minions, as well as industrial concerns. Gore’s company, Generation Investment Management, is set up to broker carbon credits. This means that if carbon trading is mandated by government agencies, his company will be positioned astride a multi-billion dollar pipeline, potentially earning him hundreds of millions in profits. However, carbon trading schemes will do little or nothing to actually reduce the amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere. I have nothing against anyone earning a legitimate profit, but let’s not pretend that Al Gore and company are just disinterested, altruistic benefactors of mankind as contrasted with the big bad energy companies. At least we know where the energy companies stand.
I will close with a quote from the late Hermann Flohn, one of my favorite climate scientists, and a founding father of the discipline of climatology:
“Climate –even under its natural development alone- varies continually. Each year, each decade, each century, each millennium, since long before any question of impact of human activity…It is important to gauge the magnitudes and time-scales of these variations, since planning should not be based on expectations of return to some non- existent norm. And the magnitude and extent of any changes attributable to Man’s activities –or even whether any such effects are occurring on more than a local scale-cannot be determined without knowing the range, and the likely timing, of changes due to natural causes.”
Hermann Flohn (1984)
In the ensuing decades since Flohn wrote those words we have learned that natural climate variability has vastly exceeded anything even he imagined. Studies of planet Earths’ climate system are only in their infancy. To say the debate is now over is not a scientific statement, it is a statement representing a new brand of religious fundamentalism, promoted by powerful government agencies and individuals that stand to gain enormously by the control of the worlds’ energy resources, and whose ranks are filled by a new breed of true believers who, convinced that humans are destroying the planet, march in goose step toward the goal of shutting down modern civilization and returning us to the Dark Ages.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely want us to evolve to a green, sustainable global economy. But, it is critically important to understand that Governments, far more than the private sector, are now the greatest wasters of Earth’s energy resources and the predominant cause of environmental pollution. Nothing undertaken by industry can match the detrimental environmental consequences of the interminable, destructive wars conducted by our own unaccountable government. The trillion dollars per year spent pursuing these wars, if returned to the states, to local communities, small businesses, families, researchers and individuals, could stimulate a profound evolutionary advance in the direction of an ultimately sustainable civilization. It should be stated emphatically that mainstream media does not report on the environmental consequences of Americas’ imperialistic wars, at least not so that the general population is aware of the true scale of destruction. Many Vietnamese people are still suffering from the war induced environmental havoc wrought upon that nation over 35 years after cessation of hostilities, not to mention what is now happening throughout the Middle East. Whole books need to written and then read by the American public on the absolute environmental and humanitarian mess we have made with those wars.
When we pile on top of endless wars and intervention, the enormously expanding national debt, and the consequent weakening of our dollars, the abysmal record of government controlled public ‘education’, the bloated, self perpetuating welfare/entitlement system, a Medicare/Medicaid system sinking under rampant fraud, an out of control national security state, an unconstitutional and obscenely wasteful drug war, an inflated, crime-spawning prison- industrial bureaucracy, 1000s of pages of new regulations every year that are suffocating small businesses while letting large corporations, and government itself, off the hook, and so on and on, we are forced to admit, if we are intellectually honest, that it is the government Leviathan that is the major roadblock to progress and implementation of a sustainable planetary civilization. We desperately need decentralization of political power. Nothing will move us forward to where we need to be more effectively or humanely than a generous dose of Liberty— which as the Founders Fathers of our nation well understood, and as enshrined in the Declaration of our Independence and in our Bill of Rights— is second in preciousness only to Life itself, and without which there can be no genuine pursuit of happiness or social advancement.