- - Tuesday, February 6, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Many religious people want to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change. They believe it is their spiritual duty. Acting on climate forecasts and analysis, they are inspired to save people and the planet from the evils of fossil fuels.

They are convinced that if God was on the planet in person, he would certainly trust the prognostic ability of climate scientists to discern the Earth’s climate decades into the future. And, with the scientists’ sacrosanct ability to confidently discern the future climate, God would know that these prognosticators could also tease out the human fingerprint in mundane storm development and tracks.

Yet, in the 1970s, as society was warned of the then popular coming ice age scare by weather wizards, a Christian tract by Walter Lang and prolific cartoonist Vic Lockman was circulated. The catchy pamphlet, titled “Need We Fear Another Ice Age?,” evangelized a solution some technocrats were preaching to stem the encroaching ice observed at that time. Their solution: Cover the surface of the ice with coal dust so that it would absorb sunlight and melt.

With the fear of an ice age, the back-cover of a 1977 paperback book, “Our Changing Weather: Forecast of Disaster?” by Claude Rose, wondered: “Will our fuel run out? Will our food be destroyed? Will we freeze?” And, it asserted: “Scientists no longer debate the coming of a new ice age: The question now is when?”

As an undergraduate student in meteorology in the mid-‘70s at a leading institution in atmospheric science, Penn State, I was alerted to the real possibility of the coming ice age.

The concern in the 1970s was that, since Northern Hemisphere temperatures had been falling rather steadily since the 1940s and glaciers were apparently advancing, the world was facing dangerous icy prospects. After all, a colder world would pose more serious problems than a warmer one. Besides increased human mortality, the rest of the ecosystem would be drastically limited. Just look at the extremes. Biodiversity thrives in the tropics, but is gravely curtailed at the poles.

But, what can be expected for planet Earth in the future? Today’s crystal-ball for Earth’s atmosphere from equator to poles is based on venerated complex climate models.

As a life-long atmospheric scientist, modeler, and Christian, I have learned that output from climate models do not deserve the faith bestowed upon them.

Models present tentative representations of reality, based on interpretation of limited information. Contrary to modeled reality, the natural dynamics of the atmosphere oftentimes produces not only unexpected temperature trends — like the one during the past nearly 20 years — but also unfavorable storm development and paths that models simply miss. And, the results of models are especially iffy when it comes to reproducing precipitation amounts and patterns.

Models are a sophisticated, but too imperfect tool upon which to wrench the world away from its progress in reliable, efficient, cost-effective, abundant and rather quickly-deployed fossil fuel and nuclear technology. So, the billions without dependable electricity can be readily delivered from their clean energy deficiency through the technology that so many of us developed-world citizens have taken for granted for so long.

Believers and non-believers alike can take comfort in the fact that, despite unrealistic climate models, the natural atmosphere is largely controlled by water in all its forms — as droplets and ice crystals in clouds, liquid in vast globe-circumventing oceans, and as polar ice sheets and invisible atmospheric vapor.

Carbon dioxide (a key control knob in climate models) and other “greenhouse” constituents like methane and nitrous oxide are in the mix, but water overall vies to be the ultimate climate regulator. And, water often makes the difference in big and small weather events. Not just the wet portions of the events, but the windy parts too. Overall, since water tends to limit temperature ranges, its effect is to modulate climate extremes.

So, to certain religious types who essentially say trust us, as we trust climate scientists to know the future of earth’s climate, the Bible offers a more reliable prediction: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.”

This is a long-term outlook truly worthy of trust.

Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist and the author of “In Global Warming We Trust: Too Big to Fail” (Stairway Press, 2016).


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