Wednesday, May 12, 2010

First, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen trekked off across the Arctic in the winter of 2007 “to raise awareness about global warming” by showcasing the wide expanses of open water they were certain they’d encounter. Instead, nighttime temperatures inside their tent hit minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit, while outside it was minus 103 degrees.

Open water is rare at those temperatures, the intrepid explorers discovered. Facing frostbite, amputated toes and even death, the two were airlifted out barely 18 miles into their 530-mile expedition.

The next winter, swimmer-ecologist Lewis Gordon Pugh planned to breaststroke across open Arctic seas. Same story. In 2009, Pen Hadow gave it a go; another no-go.

This year, Tom Smitheringale sought to demonstrate “the effect that global warming is having on the polar ice caps.” He confessed to coming “very close to the grave” before being flown out.

Hopefully, the rescue helicopters were solar-powered. Even hardened climate-disaster deniers wouldn’t want these brave (if misguided) adventurers to use choppers fueled by “climate-changing” hydrocarbons.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to envision them dreaming about stoking up the boiler from the wreck of the Alice May over yonder on Lake Lebarge and chattering in their sleep: “Since I left Plumtree down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

The explorers tried to put the best spin on their failures. “One of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability,” the Bancroft-Arnesen expedition’s coordinator said helpfully. “But please know global warming is real, and with it can come extreme unpredictable changes in temperature,” Ms. Arnesen added.

“Global warming can mean colder. It can mean wetter. It can mean drier. That’s what we’re talking about,” Greenpeace activist Stephen Guilbeault chimed in.

Who was it that defined insanity as hitting your thumb repeatedly with a hammer, expecting it won’t hurt the next time? Or expecting the polar ice cap definitely will melt by “next year”?

Actually, the Arctic ice has been rebounding since its latest low ebb around September 2007. And despite steadily rising atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels - from 0.0285 percent, or 285 parts per million, in 1870 to 0.0388 percent, or 388 ppm today - average global temperatures have been stable or declining since 1995.

Even United Kingdom Climate Research Unit chief Phil Jones acknowledged that to the BBC, and alarmist colleague Kevin Trenberth admitted, “We can’t account for the lack of warming, and it’s a travesty that we can’t.”

Instead of sleds and snowshoes, the explorers should have rented Doc Brown’s “Back to the Future” time machine. They would have found plenty of the global warming and open waters they so desperately seek.

Vikings built homes, grew crops and raised cattle in Greenland from 950 to 1300, before they were frozen out by the Little Ice Age and encroaching pack ice and ice sheets.

Subsequent warm periods were marked by open seas and minimal southward extent of Arctic sea ice, as noted in ships’ logs and discussed in scientific papers. Warm periods of 1690-1710, 1750-1780 and 1918-1940, for instance, were preceded and followed by colder temperatures and maximum southward ice packs, as during 1630-1660 and 1790-1830.

“Not only in the summer, but in the winter the ocean [in the Bering Sea region] was free of ice, sometimes with a wide strip of water up to at least 200 miles from the shore,” Swedish explorer Oscar Nordkvist reported in 1822.

“We were astonished by the total absence of ice in Barrow Strait,” Francis McClintock, captain of the Fox, wrote in 1860. “I was here at this time in 1854 - still frozen up - and doubts were entertained as to the possibility of escape.”

In 1903, during the first year of his three-year crossing of the Northwest Passage, Roald Amundsen noted that his party “had made headway with ease” because ice conditions had been “unusually favorable.”

The 1918-1940 warming also resulted in Atlantic cod increasing in population and expanding their range some 800 miles, to the Upernavik area of Greenland, and in whitefish and seals being replaced by herring and smelt off Spitzbergen, Norway, scientific journals reported.

Climate change has been “real” throughout Earth’s history, during countless cycles of warming and cooling, flood and drought, storm and calm, open Arctic seas and impassable ice.

The issue today is not whether the climate is (again) changing and mankind is responsible in part for the latest changes. That simplistic assertion states the obvious, skews the debate and preordains public-policy responses that are excessive, costly and unjust. The fundamental issue is this:

Are humans causing imminent, unprecedented, global climate-change disasters? And can we prevent those supposed disasters by dramatically increasing the price of carbon, drastically curtailing hydrocarbon use, reducing living standards and imposing government control over industries and people’s lives?

There is no evidence to support these claims. Indeed, all the headline-grabbing disasters and a third of the citations in the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s massive 2007 climate report were newspaper articles, student papers and press releases from climate activists and lobbyists - not peer-reviewed studies.

Crisis scenarios conjured up by computer models are no better. The models reflect CO2-centric assumptions, presume clouds exert only warming influences, often rely on massaged temperature data from urban heat islands - and are little better than computer games like FarmVille or SimEarth.

They help scientists visualize how climate systems work, but they’re useless for predicting the future. They create virtual realities and virtual crises and then “solve” them with virtual solutions. We need reality-based science and public policy.

Most Americans now blame climate change on natural forces, not human activity - and 75 percent are unwilling to spend more than $100 per year in higher energy bills to “stabilize” Earth’s ever-turbulent climate.

Our politicians need to re-examine the so-called “science” behind climate disaster claims and demonstrate similar common sense.

Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. Willie Soon is an independent scientist who studies Arctic climate change.

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