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Global Warning Environmental Disaster?

Updated on August 18, 2008

Is the earth getting significantly warmer?

It's all over the news - this is the hottest summer ever, in the decade, in the last 5 years. So is the world getting warmer and what, if anything can we do about it.

Global Warning has become a Religion not Good Science

Global warming has become the new religion - elections are won and lost over it, its accepted on faith my most of the media and therefore many people that

a) global warming exists and is significant

b) global warming is bad;

c)global warming is created by human activity.

Its taken as gospel, and I use the religious term deliberately, that global warming is proven and that humans burning of fossil fuels have increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The CO2 insulates the earth - preventing heat escaping from the upper atmosphere - hence global warming - simple, straightforward - but unproven.

Global warning has become an article of faith - so therefore closer to religion than science. Science involves taking a hypothesis and rigorously examining it until its proven - up until then its still an a hypotheses which is what anthropogenic global warming is. Although in some areas average temperatures have increased over the last few decades that is not exactly proof that either human activity has caused the change or, in fact that the change in temperature is significant to the planet or the human race.

Why did the Romans wear clothing like this in Britain? Photo: wellyg
Why did the Romans wear clothing like this in Britain? Photo: wellyg

Climate is not Stable

The world's climate changes, has always changed and its natural that it changes. It changes both on long, 100,000 year cycles and shorter, much shorter cycles. Some of the change is predictable, some is not.

Since the last ice age which finished in the Northern Hemisphere approximately 10,000 years ago the earth, has been gradually, in general, warming. The ice sheets have melted and retreated northwards and allowed the development of farming across much of North America and Europe where formally the only way to survive was as hunters and gatherers.

Why has the world been getting, in general warmer for the last 10,000 years? The climate of the planet is complex and not completely understood. There are complex interactions between the earth, the atmosphere, and the sun. As far as current science understands the most significant effects on the climate on earth are

Milankovitch Cycles:

The earth orbits the sun in a not quite perfect ellipse - sometimes its further from the sun than other times. The earth's poles aren't exactly at right angles to the ellipse that it describes around the sun - sometimes one hemisphere is closer to the sun than the other, and then the sun it self- wobbles slightly as it spins. Taken together the precession of the equinoxes, obliquity and eccentricity of the Earth's orbit are believed to be responsible for the 100,000 year cycle of ice ages observed in the geological record. Sun activity. The amount of radiant energy from the Sun varies periodically, principally on an 11-year solar cycle.


Karakatoa, near Sumatra, Indonesiais known to have erupted in 1883 with the violent volcanic eruption in recent history. In 1998 the explosion was heard 3,500km away in Australi and the plume of ash rose to the height of 80km and blocked out the sun. It is possible that it was Karakotoa erupted even more violently in 535AD setting in motion events which precipitated the start of the European Dark Ages including revolution and the bubonic plague.

Was Greenland a temperate paradise for the Vikings? Photo:sobergeorge
Was Greenland a temperate paradise for the Vikings? Photo:sobergeorge

Putting Climate into Perspective

The climate varies: from year to year, from decade to decade from millennia to millennia The problem is perspective - do you remember that when you were a small child and you were told that next year you would go to school that seemed like an unimaginable long time to wait When you were 25 and had been with your partner for 2 years that seemed like a long time too. Now I am in my 40's it seems like yesterday I was in my 20's - I believe from those older than me that the effect continues to accelerate - as our brain lives through more and more time the subjective time line speeds up.

Now lets look at historic time: accurate records on weather and rainfall have been kept for a little over 100 years -there are few people alive in the world who were born prior to accurate record keeping in places such as the US. The Romans conquered the local British tribes approximately 2000 years ago. Already we can't imagine 2000 years, probably because the average human doesn't live past about 80 years. Now lets step it up a bit, in geologic time - Homo Sapiens developed about 100,000 years ago, the earth itself has been around for about 4,600,000,000 (4.6 billion) years . If the whole history of the planet is compressed into 24 hours then mankind has been around for about - 1 MINUTE!

Humankind has been around less than 1 minute!


It was only 1100 years ago where Greenland was populated. It was called Greenland because it was green. There were crops, there were cattle there. It is generally accepted that when Eric the Red colonised Greenland and named it in the 10th century, it was warmer than today. This was proved when archaeologists found a stone house of the early settlers under permafrost. Global warming commenced again at 500BC, there was an excess of food and great empires such as the Ashoka, Ch'hin and the Romans grew.

Contemporary records and Roman clothing shows that conditions were some 5C warmer than today. There is a well documented time between 900AD and 1300AD known as the Medieval Warm Period. This was followed by a mini-Ice Age which saw the Thames regularly freeze so hard that it could be used as a road and a fair ground for months.

The Thames, from the London Eye Photo: binarystatic
The Thames, from the London Eye Photo: binarystatic

Are we Destroying our Climate?

In the context of this centuries long change you can start to appreciate that to talk about climate change of 5 or 50 or 100 years is meaningless - in the same way that a trader in the middle of a stock market crash can't tell whether the worst is over or yet to come - we lack perspective. Yes there have been huge changes in our lifetime, but accurate records go back less than 150 years - we can't change that. So yes there is defiinitley been climate change, and if there wasn't we would probably still be living in caves, hiding from the European ice sheets.

Is human activity causing this change? I don't know, but I do know that until we stop taking global warming as an article of faith and remember how to good science it is unlikely that we will find out.


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    • profile image


      10 years ago

      One of your correspondents wrote "The sensible thing to do is to believe the vast bulk of informed scientific opinion".

      This has happened in the past, when people had a lot of difficulty believing

      - that the earth wasn't flat

      - that the earth orbited the sun.

      Opinions upheld by that most august body, the British Royal Society.

      There has been so much research funding for CO2 emissions, rather that the real issue, (which I believe is sustainability) that you really have to wonder how it's financed - and who is pushing the buttons. One principal rule to follow when looking for causation is "follow the money".

      Governments have latched on to the CO2 cause ever since they saw it as a new way of collecting taxes, but I don't believe that they are at the root of the "CO2 is bad" push. Think of a power industry that hasn't had a new major project in about 20 years and could well lose all it's expertise if nothing is built soon. Add to that the rumour that there is reputed to be only 60 years of fuel supply left, so it needs to act fast...another clue, it doesn't produce any CO2.

      Got it yet? Yes, we can all benefit from "clean" nuclear power. I think that I'd rather be slightly warmer...

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Yes most scientists are clear that we don't yet understand the atmosphere - its one of the most complex parts of the earth's ecosystem. I really dislike any unthinking religion - even when its cloaked as "religion"

    • helenathegreat profile image


      10 years ago from Manhattan

      This is a great hub!! My father has been ranting about global warming being "consensus science" for years, and I'm starting to believe him. Yes, we are depleting our earth's resources, but it's really too bad that Those In Power feel they need to feed it to us in the form of "global warming."

      And now, it's become a marketing ploy! The Prius and other hybrids are actually BAD for the environment, but everyone wants to be "green" so they'll pay more to buy them.

      Science is not concrete enough for all scientists to agree that global warming is our fault, and yet it seems they do. This is suspect. So basically what I'm saying is thanks for writing this comprehensive hub!

    • stressrelief profile image


      10 years ago from Nevada & Maryland

      My son just gave a presentation in his logic and rheteoric class about this very subject. Great post Lissie!

    • archturn profile image


      10 years ago


      Thanks for the hub.  I’m with you.  GW has become a religion.  In fact, this winter has been the coldest worldwide in many decades.  The climate has changed as indicated by warming of the climate from the ice ages. 

    • chantelg4 profile image


      10 years ago from Northern Ontario

      You know I was about to go to bed, when I realized that I wrote carbon dioxide for cows! I meant methane for cows is greater than carbon dioxide from cars, does that make more sense...I'm tired forgive me! lol and I agree, y2k was the deal of the century or disaster? Not!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for stopping by chatelg4. Cows emit more CO2 than cars- which kinda prooves the point really - especially if you do just mean cows not all mammals. In fact if the stomatolites hadn't started emitting CO2 2 billion years ago none of us mammals would have evolved ! Read about it here

      Oh and yes the y2k thing was 1 of the biggest cons by business on the world ever - 5 years before Italy decided to do abosultely nothing about y2k - what happened there - pretty much no more than those countries who spent billions and billions on consultants saying they were fixing the problem And yes I was part of the IT industry at the time

    • chantelg4 profile image


      10 years ago from Northern Ontario

      Year 2000 scared the crap out of me, my hubby was working at the fire station and I was alone with the kids. Can you beleive, at exactly 12:01, there was an earthquake! Never get that where I am from, so I was totally freaked out. Anyways great hub, global warming is real, yes sure perhaps the world was warmer back in the dinosaur age, but they did all die didn't they? They probably had a high gas output like cows, did you know that the cow population emits more carbon dioxide then all the cars on the planet? Yuk!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for visiting tjmum. I was a teenager in the 70's and I remember being convinced that I would not see 30 - not because of my own actions but because Iwas convinced that the cold war would result in nuclear war and the end of western civilisation - I remember watching the Berlin Wall come down in 1989 in London with tears streaming down my face realising there was hope for the world! Then of course we were going to have famine thru overpopulation - that was the 80's I think and of course ADS. All the computers were going to stop working in 2000 too remember - causing chaos on road, sky, power plant etc! I'm pretty optimistic these days!

    • tjmum profile image


      10 years ago from Isle of Wight

      I am worried about global warming, and even if we are not a major contributer to climate change it does make sense to do our bit. we also have to consider things like over fishing, destruction of habitat destruction of food chains etc. And most of that is man made.

      I have a worry about the religious side of things as so far as the four horsemen of the apocolypse go. There's famine - it has been reported that there will be a global food shortage by 2020; pestilence - AIDS, HIV, Bird Flu, SARS etc; war - I needn't say anything about that one, and of course Death - as sure as taxes.

      Perhaps there is no hope for us after all!

      Great Hub by the way.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Inteesting MrM - there are of course lies, damme lies and statistics and both sides of the debate love to play with the graphs. That's an interesting about the dinosaurs - I thought the theory was either a huge volcanic eruption or a small meteor had thrown a lot of dust into the atmosphere and resulted in a season or 2 of no sun which killed them off as repetiles cant handle climate changes as well as warm-blooded mammels.

      The Indexer - true "global warming" is the key phrase for Google - but in fact I prefer "climate change" as its more realistic - global warming just makes a better headline! I don't have a problem with being enviornmentally responsible but I hate science being coopted as a religion to frighten people into behaving differently. And in the end it really doesn't matter what you or I or in fact 80% of the population of the US or the UK do - its China and India that will make the difference

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      Dinosaurs lived for 160,000 million years.

      Litteraly extinct some 60,0000.000 Yewars.

      Attended a talk put on by the global warming and the author of a new book

      expunded some facts and graphs, as to how you and I had done all this in our 25 seconds.

      He showed how the Global warming was going up like a lift. Some how his graph showed an incredible rise in temperatures at about the end of of the Dinosaurs. Three4 time highter than what we caused.

      Three times higher. No reason for it and we were not around to cause it.

    • The Indexer profile image

      John Welford 

      10 years ago from UK

      Lizzie, Global warming has many consequences other than summers getting warmer. Indeed, the effect could well be a decrease in average temperatures in some places, due to a shift in weather patterns caused by warming. In the UK we are getting far more winter storms than we did in the past, and hurricanes and typhoons are becoming more frequent in other parts of the world, because a warmer atmosphere is a more active one. Mistakes are far more likely to have been made over the effects than over the general cause.

      Don't make too much of the Thames freezing over, either. This was partly due to the effect of the Old London Bridge, which constricted the flow of the river and made it more liable to freezing. There was also a "mini ice age" from about the 13th to the 19th century, that brought much colder winters to the Northern Hemisphere. This might well have been caused by the solar system moving through a region of space that contained much more dust than at present , thus reducing the power of the Sun.

      The fact remains that the atmosphere contains much more Co2 now than it did in the pre-industrial era, and that cannot possibly have happened without human activity. This is proved by anaylsis of ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica.

      It is very dangerous to ignore the science just because it suits our lifestyle to do so.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks johnngd - I agree the geological 24 hour clock at a huge impact on me when I saw it in geology class 25 years ago and I think it deserves a wider audience - it really puts everything in perspective

    • johnngd profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      Great Post - To think Humans have only been on the planet for the equivalent of a minute, that's a very powerful statement, it put globel warming into perspective. Like Sdorrian says above there's no point arguing over sometthing we cannot prove - we just need to be aware and start being individually responsible.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments. My point Indexer is the 50 years is a nano second in the life of the planet and we really have no idea if the temperature is going up fast or not - in fact the climate record for Florida since 1895 indicates the average temperature has dropped slightly. From presonal observation New Zealand's summer has got a whole lot cooler in the last 20 odd years.

      In general I don't have a problem about making sensible changes in the way we use resources and energy- fuel efficiency is sensible strategy with the price of oil! Unfortunatly although it should help your personal budget I don't think it will make any difference to the planet. Even if you accept the global warming anthropgenic hypothesis remember the the biggest change to the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere is from the development in India, China .

      What annoys me is the meaningless costs in the name of global warming - for example take carbon off-set charges, now popular with airlines, but electricity company is trying this one too. Think about it what are you paying for? The company has always passed on a fuel charge anyway - why should you pay if they choose to invest in plantation forests?

      sdorren - we have some indirect inevidence of previous temperatures - the freezing of the Thames is even more dramatic than you may think - remember the Thames was probably far more polluted then than it is now - so the freezing point would have been lower than zero. We know that the 6thcentury eruption disrupted tree growth for 15 years from the tree ring evidence. We can also see the evidence from the growth of crops which don't survive in the same areas now.

    • sdorrian profile image


      10 years ago from Chicago

      This is a great Hub! I agree with you, Lissie. The Earth is in a warming trend, but it's a big jump to say that it's a man-made warming trend. Just 30 years ago, there was a panic about an impending ice-age because temperatures appeared to be dropping. It's impossible to know what previous warming and cooling trends looked like because we were not measuring temperatures until 1880 (or we weren't even around). This has become such a hot (pardon the pun) political issue precisely because it can't be proven that the current warming trend is man-made. Politicians and the media are exploiting this issue to get ratings and votes.

      That being said, it is still worthwhile to examine our own behavior and to try to reduce pollution and develop alternate energy sources. Forget the hype and the bad science. Let's stop arguing over something that we simply cannot know for sure and start being responsible citizens of the planet.

    • topstuff profile image


      10 years ago

      There is too much noise about global warming but no good practical steps to mitigate it.Its a big dilemma.

    • The Indexer profile image

      John Welford 

      10 years ago from UK

      One thing to consider very carefully is the rate of change in global temperatures. The increase over the last 50 years or so has been much faster than could have been caused by natural processes, and so human activities must be the cause.

      The problem with denying that global warming is man-made is the corollary that we therefore don't need to do anything about it. But suppose you are wrong, and we just go on doing what we have always done and keep pumping vast quantities of greenhouse gasses into the air until the point is reached when warming becomes unstoppable? It will then be too late to do anything to correct the mistake.

      The sensible thing to do is to believe the vast bulk of informed scientific opinion and make the changes that will at least slow down the processes of change. If everyone took a few simple steps, such as turning their home heating down by a few degrees, and taking fewer flights, etc, a huge difference could be made.


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