A recent study looking at
atmospheric carbon when combined with a recent summary of global
atmospheric temperatures over the past 30 years sharply illustrates
Looking first at the temperature map,
which was compiled by the University
of Alabama in Huntsville using satellite data of atmospheric
temperatures over the last three decades, several interesting things
pop out. First, one quickly notices the relative highs that
were reached between 2002 and 2007, which believers in the theory of
anthropogenic (manmade) global warming (AGW) tend to fixate on.
And likewise it's equally easy to notice the sharp drop and relative
in 2008, something that AGW disbelievers elect to focus on.
the new year, the temperature is on the rise again, but as can be
seen in the graph it's unclear whether this increase will truly mark
a warming rise, or simply another cyclic variation. There have
been approximately 7 cyclic variations over the past three decades,
highlighted by the peaks.
Meanwhile, turning to a new
study in Nature Geoscience, in 2008 global carbon levels
soared 2 percent to record highs of 1.3 tons of carbon per capita per
year. The paper cites increased use of coal in developing
nations as the biggest factor, with emissions from oil and
deforestation as minor factors.
One of the paper’s lead
authors, CSIRO’s Dr Mike Raupach comments, "The current growth
in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is closely linked to
growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). CO2
emissions from fossil fuel combustion are estimated to have increased
41 per cent above 1990 levels with emissions continuing to track
close to the worst-case scenario of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC). There will be a small downturn in
emissions because of the GFC, but anthropogenic emissions growth will
resume when the economy recovers unless the global effort to reduce
emissions from human activity is accelerated."
accelerated rate of carbon emissions raised atmospheric levels to 385
parts per million, 38 percent above pre-industrial levels. Four
billion metric tons of carbon were emitted in 2008.
combination of soaring emissions and the lack of soaring temperatures
paints an intriguing puzzle for those in the climatology research
community with open minds. On the one hand, warming may be
occurring, albeit more subtly than many AGW advocates claim.
Under this scenario, a gradual upwards climb over many cycles may be
noticed, as global carbon increases. On the other hand, another
possibility is that almost no net warming will occur as carbon may
need to reach much higher levels before its effects truly kick in.
And a final possibility is that dramatic warming may indeed kick in
at sometime in the near future -- despite the fact that it hasn't
Either way, the overall picture leads suggests, for the
time being, that scientists question the IPCC's alarming estimates of
global temperature increases. While such increases can not be
ruled out, they do not seem to fit the current data, at least from a
macro (global) perspective.
With the international community
puzzling over expensive
climate change legislation, it is important to consider carefully
what landmarks by which to gauge "success" amid the
uncertainty of cyclic variation. Furthermore, critics and
proponents aside, the wisest approach seems to be to avoid schemes
that throw money into the wind, such as carbon
trading or carbon sequestration. Instead, if money from
global taxpayers must be spent, it seems much wiser to put it towards
projects that could eventually show financial returns and cut
emissions, such as fuel efficient cars, clean fission power, improved
solar cells, and viable fusion power.