The Hot Air of Climate Change, Part 2

Is this change part of a known natural cycle?

This is a multi-part series examining the current debate over "global warming", also known as "climate change".

In our look at the subject of global warming, we've seen that it's not possible at our present date and time to prove that the Earth is warming in the first place.  But let's lay that aside, and assume that it's true - Earth is getting warmer.  The next question, then, must be:

2. Is this change part of a known natural cycle?

It's long been known that global weather patterns have cyclical changes.  Some of these cycles are short - the famous El Nino conditions occur every 2 to 7 years, and last a year or two.  Some of these cycles are very long.  We seem to get major ice ages at intervals of hundreds of millions of years. There are thousands of cycles, local and global, lying between these two extremes, some of which are known and have been documented, others of which are yet to be discovered.

Even in historical times, there have been quite significant changes in temperature.  Western Europe experienced a general cooling of temperatures during the late Middle Ages, and a generally much colder climate between 1560 and 1850.

During this time, London's Thames River regularly froze over, so much so that Londoners held "Frost Fairs" out on the ice, as is done today in much-colder Montreal.  There have been no Frost Fairs in London since 1814, so clearly the weather there has gotten warmer since then.

But further back in the past, it was quite a lot warmer.  During the Medieval Warm Period, from 850 until around 1250, there were extensive vineyards in England, with wine production sufficient to challenge the French in the markets; you don't see this even today.

This was also the time when the Vikings colonized Greenland.  As has been well documented, the Vikings tried to establish a standing civilization on what was already rather marginal land, at a time when the climate was about to trend much, much cooler; Jared Diamond has a moving description of how the Little Ice Age brought civilization in Greenland to an unhappy end in his book Collapse.

Over time, it's been both much colder and a good bit warmer than it is today.  It's been reported that the hottest years of the past century was 2006 until NASA found their math was wrong: it was actually 1934.  This certainly illustrates the previous point made - it is very, very difficult to actually measure the changing temperature of the Earth in a globally meaningful and useful way, but also underscores the fact that today's temperatures are certainly within historical ranges.  The temperature and weather patterns we see today are not out of the ordinary, nor are the trends associated with them.

But because of the complexity of global weather cycles, it is not really possible to know for sure that that's all we're seeing.  There could be more involved.  So let's move on to the next question:

3. If not simply part of a normal climactic cycle, what is causing the change?

To be continued...

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments
more "hot air" from the writer, who knows nothing about the science involved; get your money back for this one too
January 5, 2008 10:23 AM
Based on your "logic" here, one could suggest that there is global warming simply because we don't know either way. Why not take steps to conserve and be more efficient with our energy and waste? Assuming we don't know or that global warming doesnt exist, how can it hurt us to be good stewards?
January 5, 2008 5:00 PM
What Chase said is perfectly true in that there is no reason NOT to take steps to conserve resources. In fact, everyone ought to do that as Scrag suggested in this article:
The comments suggest that people agreed that it might be possible to cut energy use, but nobody liked the idea of government FORCING us to let our homes get colder. As this article points out:
FORCING people to cut energy use will lead to drastic cuts in life style. The reason the eco types hype global warming so much is that they KNOW that voters will NOT make the sacrifices they're demanding unless the voters believe there's a real crisis. That's why they tell the lies they tell.
January 5, 2008 5:27 PM
Did you read the first article in the series? The author explained the format - it's a series examining a logical sequence about global warming. From the description at the beginning, it looks like your questions will be addressed as the series continues. Have patience...
January 7, 2008 8:24 AM
Oh, and here's 400 more climate experts saying global warming is bogus. Maybe you should actually READ the arguments presented and respond to them, instead of just dismissing them out of hand because they don't agree with what you've been reading in the New York Times.
January 7, 2008 8:36 AM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...