Global Warming: Fact or Fairy Tale?
If you are like most people, you’ve heard the phrases “Greenhouse Effect,” “ Global Warming, ” and “Ozone Hole” so often that you are probably left wondering: is a real scenario or simply another case of Chicken Little declaring that the sky is falling. While most Americans have heard these buzz words, the mainstream media oftentimes gets so caught up in promoting political “hot topics,” that they forget to convey the obvious: what is really going on, and what is the truth behind the hype?
Since Global Warming and related issues are featured every month in some form of mainstream media, we felt it would be beneficial to provide readers with some answers to their questions—in an effort to alleviate confusion. Politicians and the media often try to create a frenzied atmosphere by informing the general public that we have “reached the point of no return,” or that “climate change is inevitable.” The truth is far less frightening. Bear in mind that the internet contains hundreds of sites on these issues, so it is not hard for someone who holds to one particular belief or another to find supporting “evidence.” However, the Proverb writer recorded that “the first one to plead his cause seems right until his neighbor comes and examines him” (18:17).
Consider that in 1975, the secular media was scaring the public with a different fear—the coming Ice Age. In the April 28th issue of Newsweek the authors noted:
There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production– with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas–parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia–where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.
They went on to comment: “Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change.” Can you imagine where we would be today had they changed policy in order to combat the upcoming “Ice Age.” Talk about global warming!
In order to really understand this situation, we must get past the pollution, speculation, exaggeration, computer models, etc. and examine the process of the Earth’s atmosphere.
What is the Greenhouse Effect?
A physical greenhouse acts as an insulating barrier that allows plants to be warmed—even during cooler climates. It provides protection and warms the enclosed environment. Many people claim that our atmosphere holds a similar greenhouse for the Earth. The “Greenhouse Effect” is actually a poor term to describe what is going on in our atmosphere. There is not a physical barrier that is causing the Earth to be heated. Oftentimes when someone sees the words “Greenhouse Effect” they immediately think of “greenhouse gases.” We know today that greenhouse gases do not inhibit convective activity, and so they do not act like a physical greenhouse—they don’t behave like a “blanket” as is frequently stated.
But isn’t the greenhouse effect bad?
If you were to listen to news reporters, you might come away believing that any type of “Greenhouse Effect” is bad and something we should eradicate. However, consider what life would be like without the insulating properties of a natural Greenhouse Effect. We know how quickly it can cool down outside without clouds acting as an insulating blanket. But consider planets (or the moon) which don’t have this “Greenhouse Effect.” During the daylight hours they experience extreme heat, followed by 200-300 degree drops at night. It’s estimated that if the natural greenhouse effect were completely removed and all that remained was simply our atmosphere and clouds, the Earth’s surface would be about -18 °C. Common sense demonstrates the need for a natural greenhouse effect in order to sustain life.
But don’t Greenhouse gases trap heat around the Earth?
Not like many people envision. Greenhouse gases are generally transparent to incoming solar radiation (heat from the Sun). An easy way to imagine it is sunlight enters our atmosphere, strikes the Earth, and much of it is reflected back out into space. A small amount of the heat is absorbed by various greenhouse gases. These gases allow most of the energy to pass through, only absorbing very low levels of UV radiation. Bear in mind that the energy absorbed by greenhouse gases is eventually passed on to the troposphere and stratosphere. So greenhouse gases do not “trap” heat as we are commonly told. Instead they delay the transfer from the Earth back out into space. Remember, our atmosphere is not a closed system, so it’s hard to predict precisely what an increase in CO2 levels will mean here on Earth. Consider also that the majority of the greenhouse effect is caused by water vapor and clouds.
Then what, exactly, is Global Warming?
Global Warming is actually the result of the Greenhouse Effect. The Greenhouse Effect gives us the cause or the method, and Global Warming refers more specifically to “how much.” Unfortunately, this phrase is so frequently used (and misused) in the secular media that today it doesn’t tell us much. Global Warming can be defined as the increase in the Earth’s temperature brought about by increased greenhouses gases.
Is “Human Caused” Global Warming Real?
Certainly we can find patterns of warming, and we can identify weather cycles. But the “dooms-day” picture that is commonly being painted by politicians—that humans are quickly heating up the planet—has never been proven. Most of the hype surrounding global warming comes from a single source—NASA satellite data that showed over the past three decades warming has occurred at a rate of 0.13 degrees Celsius per year. Could this small change simply be a reflection of cyclic weather patterns that have been present for centuries? Because of this tiny increase in temperature, the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain and the Center for American Progress in the United States lead the charge to inform society. They forecasted that the “danger point” would be reached when temperatures rose by 2 degrees Celsius above the average world temperature. This dire warning led to the Kyoto Protocol, which called on many nations to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. However, under this same protocol, undeveloped Third-World nations—including China, India, Brazil, and Mexico—are free to produce whatever they want. This would allow these countries to continue to use cheaper (more pollutant) energy sources, in effect robbing some nations in order to protect the environment.
The big warming numbers often used by environmentalists do not come from actual measurements of the Earth’s temperature, but rather computer models. Scientists feed computer simulation models various criteria and conditions, and many of these models reveal dramatic changes to the climate and our environment. The scientists who do these computer modeling studies have sounded a warning bell as they passionately defend their results. But it’s smart to keep in mind that these are computer models—and computer models cannot account for every variable we see in nature. For instance, computer models cannot capture clouds—a major player in the greenhouse effect. The real numbers show that the total warming (since measurements have been attempted) is thought to be about 0.4-0.6 degrees Centigrade. At least half of the estimated temperature increment occurred before 1950, prior to significant change in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. This is a clear indication that the minute increase observed is not caused strictly by human emissions. Also, bear in mind that humans have only been recording temperature changes since about 1880. Given the small change observed, one can quickly see why it is ill-advised to put too much stock into the “dooms-day” report.
But isn’t it hotter today than ever?
Because we live in a society that is focused on “self” and instant gratification, we believe that what we are experiencing must be the most important. However, our short memories do us a disservice when it comes to topics such as these. For instance, the Arctic temperatures have been measured for a long time. The warmest years on record were in the 1940s. During that time it was unseasonably warm. Then the temperatures dropped off, and by the 1970s people were talking about the “coming ice age.” Oh, how quickly we forget. Also, history records that there was a Medieval Warm Period (MWP) that occurred in roughly A.D. 1000 to 1400 that was also a warm period. This should be a reminder to everyone that weather patterns are cyclic in nature.
But some would argue the evidence for warming is too obvious to overlook. After all, computer models indeed show the Earth to be heating up. Even some temperature studies have found slight increases. Yet, an honest observation reveals that the Earth’s atmosphere is far too complex to be modeled on computers. There are just too many variables. Furthermore, some of the evidence does not support a warming trend. For instance, study that was recently accepted by the Geophysical Letters journal is helping to show that much of this hyperbole is nothing more than environmental propaganda. A team of scientists determined that the oceans are actually cooling—not warming! Using a broad array of ocean measurements they recorded a downturn in the upper-ocean temperatures between the years 1993 and 2005, something not predicted if Global Warming were true.
But isn’t increased carbon dioxide from humans the major player?
Make no doubt about it, humans have been given dominion over God’s creation (Genesis 1:26-28), and we are to be responsible users of His creation. And yes, we do find increased levels of carbon dioxide over the past 100 years. But carbon dioxide emissions from humans play a miniscule part in the greenhouse effect. The most important players are water vapor and clouds. Water accounts for approximately 90% of the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect (some estimates are as high as 95%). The remaining portion then comes from carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and other minor greenhouse gases.
But isn’t the sea level rising?
Indeed, the sea level continues to rise—just as it always has. Scientific observations demonstrate that the sea level has risen the last millennia. However, this increase has been steady, at a uniform rate. It’s not accelerating and it does not appear to be tied to heating or cooling trends. Another recent research project demonstrated findings that things are not as bad as the environmentalists often declare. Sarah Raper and Roger Braithwaite published a paper titled “Low Sea Level Rise Projections From Mountain Glaciers and Icecaps Under Global Warming” in which they cut the projected rise in sea level from melted mountain glaciers by half of previous projections (2006). They project that the sea level rise “due to melting of mountain glaciers and icecaps to be 0.046 and 0.051 m by 2100, about half that of previous projections” (439:311). One should question why school systems are scaring children with a scenario of ice caps melting and drowning entire populations in coastal cities, when this process would take many years, allowing those living on the coast to simply move inland. Many children are growing up under the false assumption that using fossil fuels and burning hydrocarbons will lead to the death of millions. Teachers should correct this misconception, and remind students that there is no evidence that this is going to happen any time in the future.
What would you tell children or grandchildren who are worried about Global Warming?
I think it is important to remind them that God has put humans in charge and thus we are to take care of His creation. I would also stress there are many other things that are more problematic for this Earth. Obviously, the fact that so many people have abandoned a belief in God should be a chief concern. There are many issues (diseases, wars, famines, etc.) that are prevalent and much more critical than a miniscule warming of the Earth. I would also stress to young people that we know today that weather patterns are cyclic, and they will probably witness in their own lifetimes a period in which people are afraid of a coming “Ice Age.” The real Global Warming our children need to be aware of is the one that will occur when Jesus Christ comes again. This is the only global warming event that truly matters!
The scientific evidence does not support the misinformation that continues to be publicized regarding human caused Global Warming. Ironic, is it not, the lengths some will go to saving a tree—but these same individuals turn a blind eye toward the murder of the unborn.
Lyman, John M., Josh K. Willis, and Gregory Johnson, (2006), “Recent Cooling of the Upper Ocean,” August 14, [On-line], URL: http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/2006/08/14/more-information-on-the-geophysical-research-letters-article/.
Raper, Sarah C.B., and Roger J. Braithwaite (2006), “Low Sea Level Rise Projections From Mountain Glaciers and Icecaps Under Global Warming,” Nature, 439:311-313, January 19.