20 Dec 2010

Fight climate change. Wear a sweater.

If one were to go by the prevailing wisdom that the Google search engine is the nearest we can get to an up-to-date and comprehensive repository of human knowledge, "Climate change" with approximately 48,200,000 online sources has well and truly overtaken "Global warming" with just 21,300,000-odd online sources as the panic phrase of choice.

If climate change means that the weather has become unpredictable - one need only ask a TV weatherman to regain the right perspective: The weather was NEVER accurately predictable. Ever.

So before I run out for a pair of heavy-duty Wellingtons in preparation for ecological doomsday and rising oceans lapping about my ankles, I would very much appreciate if someone could clarify the following four points:

Q 1.
Has there been one century in the last one billion years when the earth's climate DID NOT change? Or on a smaller timeframe... Is there any place on the planet that has had 30 consecutive days of the exact same average temperature in the last 100 years?

Q 2.
Since we are on the subject: How is it possible for the 'average' temperature of a large geographically-varied landmass like North America (stretching from the Mojave Desert to the Arctic Circle) to be anything more than academic?

Besides the wide temperature variation in horizontal distance, there is the much greater vertical variation. Tucked away on the website of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which "[...] emphasizes a broad study of global change [...]" is the acknowledgement that "Even at the same location, the temperature near the ground may be very different from the temperature 5ft above the ground[...]"

If this is the ambiguity of the absolute temperature at one spot, one can imagine the sheer absurdity of extrapolating this vagueness to the whole planet to arrive at a singular 'global temperature'!

Q 3.
Even assuming the notion of an absoute temperature, is there any existing climate computation model that can predict with a reasonable degree of veracity the daily average temperature of any location for 365 consecutive days?

So why are predictions over 20 years and more deemed even remotely accurate or reliable?

Q 4.
And finally, if indeed temperatures around the world were somehow rising, there is the 79% water surface to be contended with...

You see, evaporation of water is endothermic, meaning it absorbs energy in the form of heat from the surrounding, causing a drop in temperature in its vicinity. For the scientifically curious, it is explained by the latent heat of vapourisation. For the rest of us, it can be explained by "evaporating sweat cools the body".

At this point, I'd like to point my patient readers towards a radical idea proposed in the 1960s by James Lovelock, an independant research scientist who worked with NASA to look for life on Mars. It is called The Gaia Hypothesis. Gaia is the Greek goddess of the Earth.

In an over-simplified nutshell, the hypothesis postulates that Planet Earth is in fact a SINGLE LIVING ORGANISM.

In a BBC interview on 30 March 2010, Professor James Lovelock, now aged 90, had this to say: "Trying to save the planet is a lot of nonsense!" Ok, let's try to save commonsense instead.

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