In July of 2013, in a time less politically dogmatic, Ernst von Metzsch refuted the hypothesis that there is only one explanation for Climate Change. Today, Earth Day 2021, he shares “An Ode to Global Warming” with She the People News and you. His views are not predicates of AOC’s political ideology, but rather a historic review of geology.
” I received an email the other day from Barack.Obama.com. this one was titled “Embarrassing Video” and it showed a little movie with a number of Republican politicians denying the existence of Climate Change. Embarrassed they should be! There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the world’s climate started changing the moment the earth was formed, about 4.5 billion years ago. Our data on the first four billion years is somewhat sketchy, as the record has largely gotten wiped out by all kinds of geological upheavals in the earth’s history. But going back a shorter period of time, a million or only 100,000 years, there is ample evidence of continuous and sometimes rapid climate change.
While denying climate change makes so little sense, the idea of fighting it, which is promoted by President Obama in the same video, and which has become widely accepted among leading thinkers of all stripes, does not have any merit either.
Mankind got going well before the last great Ice Age, which started some 116,000 years ago and lasted for about 100,000 years. The Homo Genus goes back about 2 million years, and our ancestry, Homo Sapiens about 80,000 years. The Ice Age was characterized by very cold temperatures as least as much as 20 degrees Celsius below current levels, interspersed by brief periods of extreme temperature volatility, up to 10 degrees per century. A rough time to survive in, but mankind, which apparently was quite resilient at the time, did.
Global Warming as we know it started with the waning of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. At that time so much ice had accumulated on the continents that the sea level was about 450 feet lower that today, exposing enormous sections of what now are the continental shelves. As the earth started to warm around 10,000 BC, the ice began to melt and the sea level started to rise, in the early days as much as 3 feet per hundred years. There is a century, about 2500 years ago during which the sea level rose by 12 feet! Luckily there is so little ice left that such a rate of increase is no longer possible. The waning of the Ice Age coincided with the transition of modern man from hunting-gathering to agriculture an livestock farming. Agriculture led to the creation of permanent settlements, hierarchical community structures, and population growth.
This was all made possible by the advent of Global Warming after the Ice Age, and forms the foundation of our way of life.
I think we should be grateful for this development especially the Swiss, to give an example. About 12,000 years ago that pretty little country, including it’s mountains, was invisible under a huge sheet of ice. At the same time should realize that Global Warming in the early days had undesirable consequences ( read environmental disasters) as well, such as the wipe-out of inhabited islands in what is now the North Sea during some winter storm 9,000 years ago.
If we look back at the temperature record of this 12,000 year period after the Ice Age, there have been periods, lasting from 3 to 20 centuries, during which temperatures rose, or declined, sometimes sharply. Global Warming in the last 12,000 years did not take place in a straight line. Not so long ago, after the cold Dark Ages which started around 500 AD there was the Medieval Warming (900-1300) and then we had a little Ice Age, lasting from 1500-1740, which made life in Europe not as pleasant as it is today. Most recently, temperatures dropped between 1945-1975, creating a small panic among the nascent environmental movement. Looking at the record of the last 12,000 years, one has to conclude it was a great experience for civilization, despite the volatility in temperature and prevalent destruction of ocean front property. The human population increased from a couple 100,000 in the big Ice Age to over 100 million about 2,500 years ago and has continued to benefit from Global Warming ever since.
What caused all these unpredictable and sometimes volatile changes in the the earth’s temperature, both during and after the Ice Age? Scientists have pointed out the effects of solar activity, cosmic rays, and the Melankovitch cycles. These cycles relate to changes in eccentricity of the earth’s orbit around the sun, and wobbles made by the earth as it spins around the axis.
There are numberous studies available that show that changes in these phenomena coincide with climate changes, as one would expect they would, but the data are not very precise. The scientists studying these matters are tentative in making conclusions, as they should. So many variables are at work, so many gaps in our knowledge, one has to be careful.
Where do we go from here? Without any science to relay on, I think it is prudent to assume that the global warming trend described above will continue. The sea level has risen some 450 feet since the last Ice Age, and it would be a remarkable coincidence if suddenly this trend would come to an end because modern civilization finds further sea level increases undesirable. We have another 30 feet to go before all the ice is melted away. On the other hand, the analysis of climate cycles indicates that there is a distinct possibility that the earth will move to another gradual period in the next 10,000 years in which case we would have declining temperatures to worry about, as we did in the 1970’s.
Nobody really knows what will happen. The only scientists who appear to be certain about the future are those who have concluded that rising CO2 levels, produced by mankind burning fossil fuels, are the sole cause of Global Warming. The basic weakness of this approach is that it assumes that other causes of Climate Change, referred to above, have no relevance. Or have ceased to work after 1800, or later, when we started burning coal in a meaningful amount.
The most bizarre development in environmental science in recent years is the designation by the US government of CO2 as a pollutant. This gas has been around during most if not all of earth’s history, sometimes exceeding current levels by more than ten times. These high past levels don’t appear to have caused Global Warming catastrophes. So why now? Plants which one would say play a fairly significant role in our lives, love CO2 but have no effective lobby in Washington,
So we may spend a fortune trying to reduce CO2 levels only to find out that sea levels will continue to rise which started 12,000 years ago, and for reasons we know some but not all that much about. Civilization would benefit from a rethink of what we know, and what we don’t. It is amazing that with all the knowledge accumulated over the years so many of our leading thinkers in government and academia don’t know or have forgotten that the earth’s climate was changing continuously before we started burning fossil fuels.
The movement blaming CO2 for Global warming got under way in the late 1980’s when it became apparent that the cooling of the 1945-1975 was not continuing. The irony is the the fuel, which is most to blame for CO2 emissions, coal, has been the largest source of energy supply growth since then, and is projected by the Internal Energy Agency to continue to do so, at least for a decade, exceeding oil in terms of contribution in a few years.
This would be a sad development, if fighting Global Warming by reducing CO2 made sense. We don’t know if the earth will continue the warming trend of the last ten millennia or start cooling off. Global Warming may go on for many centuries, or we may once again approach an inhospitable period of cooling. Let’s be grateful for Global Warming’s role in the development of human civilization. Let’s not pretend that there would be no Climate Change if we were not around.”
Ernst H.von Metzsch 7/19/2013 Harvard Geology Ph.D ’76