Climate expert takes on global warming
There are multiple schools of thought when it comes to climate change, global warming, and how it's influenced by humans' increasing carbon footprints. But just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the extremes on either side of the argument are the outliers when it comes to the most likely outcomes climate data suggest. In other words, says one climate expert, the climate's changing, but not nearly as much as the considerable amount of attention the issue has received in the last decade would suggest.
"Surface temperature of the earth is higher than it was 100 years ago. How high? About 1 degree Celsius. Was that caused by human beings putting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? If you look at the history of surface temp around the planet, what you'll see is that it warmed about half a degree between 1910 and 1940, then it cooled down a while, then warmed another half a degree between 1975-76 and 1997-98," says Dr. Patrick J. Michaels, a climate expert and director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. "Well, the first warming was not caused by putting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, because we hadn't put any in. If the second one was caused by that, it was no larger than the first one...which leads you to a very interesting conclusion. How much of recent warming has been caused by pernicious economic activity?"
Michaels made his remarks at the Land Investment Expo on Friday, presented by Peoples Company. The event brought together experts on some of the factors surrounding the farmland investment sector and how those foreshadow the land market's future, which many see as having plateaued heading into 2014.
Farmland is the basis for an industry of massive economic influence in the U.S. and around the world. So by its very nature, it's at odds with the resounding popular school of thought in climate research as it addresses global warming, one that itself has a fundamentally economic base.
"One of the reasons we do what we do at the Cato Institute is we are interested in the way economic incentives influence behavior. When scientific issues are portrayed as the end of the world, you can be sure they're portrayed that way not for reality's sake, but for the sake of policy . . . so that you hear repeatedly that climate change will cause terrible problems for Iowa agriculture," Michaels says. "If there is a drought, it's caused by global warming. If it rains during May and you can't plant for a couple weeks, that's caused by global warming. If it's hot, it's climate change. If it's cold, it's the polar vortex. Al Gore would say that would be caused by global warming. There has been a polar vortex for as long as the earth has been rotating and has had an atmosphere. If something explains everything, it cannot be tested to see if it is real. If something explains everything, it doesn't explain anything, because you cannot test it against what you can't explain."
Michaels says by a quick look at the last century's temperature, the level of surface temperature increase -- an overall 1-degree increase since the 1900s -- has come during two primary time frames, the 1910s-1940s and the mid-1970s through the late-1990s. Both periods saw about a half-degree increase in general surface temperature, leading Michaels to the conclusion any increase in human-derived carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has not been responsible for the 1-degree step-up.