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Global warming and climate change – Pt 1


Tue May 13, 2014

by Oswald Fereira

There is much talk about global warming and climate change, and so many people are becoming evangelists for these causes, but are these really new phenomena? To decide this we need to understand a bit about weather and climate. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at any given time and place – the present conditions. {{more}}Climate is the generally prevailing weather conditions of a region – or simply put, climate is weather averaged over a long period of time. We know that the weather changes from day to day, season to season, and from year to year; it has always done so. So, if weather is a changing variable, then climate which is weather’s composite, is also subject to change and since climate is an average, then it is subject to the extremes at the opposite ends of the average. So, within climate, change is inherent.

Historically, the earth has gone through several prolonged periods of heating and cooling, the cold periods being the Great Ice Ages. During the last ice age, 10 million square miles of North America, Europe and Asia were under ice, a barren, cold and inhospitable wasteland. As the earth cooled, the rain forests of Africa declined and were replaced by grasslands; the world deserts, such as the Sahara and the Gobi, expanded and species such as mammoths and mastodons became extinct. The great cities of today – Chicago, New York, Buffalo, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Moscow, Stockholm, Oslo – all grew up after the last ice age. Yet, there is little attention paid to “global cooling.”

Humans are generally scared of change and it is easy to play up these emotions. We prefer to maintain the status quo at all costs. We relish stability. Still, we cannot treat the earth as a stagnant mass where everything remains constant. The earth around us is in a constant state of flux. In the tropics, it is difficult to visualize these changes, but we see it in the wet and dry seasons, the hurricane season, and we feel the Christmas breezes. For those of us who live in the higher latitudes, change is dramatic. Our year begins with winter, when the earth is covered in a white blanket of snow for several months; then Spring arrives, the snow melts and our plants awaken from their winter slumber; we can grow crops and our white landscape changes to a sea of green.
Spring moves into summer and our temperatures heat up then fall arrives and we begin to cool down, we harvest our crops, the trees lose their leaves and prepare for another winter’s slumber and we fall again under another blanket of snow. In these climes, we must constantly deal with temperature shifts from plus 35 degrees Celsius to minus 35 degrees Celsius, a 70 degree Celsius difference in temperature and believe me, that change is real; we see it, we feel it, we live it. Therefore, given that change in climate is an inherent phenomenon, and given that there have been historical periods of warming and cooling, I find it difficult to get this new message of global warming and climate change. I believe that these terminologies are unfortunate choices that cloud whatever new message is being transmitted.

So, in nature, change is real and change is constant. Climate fluctuation is a natural phenomenon that has existed historically, exists now and, by trend analysis, will extend into the future. In Canada, the severity of our winters depends on the ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean; if they are in the El Nino, state our winters are totally different to when they are in the La Nina state. These changes are not permanent, but rather cyclical, the yin and the yang of nature. The world sees periods of warmth followed by periods of cold and droughts followed by floods. Mild winters are sometimes followed by bitterly cold ones – the natural cycles of nature. Yet, when we see one natural disaster, we are immediately made to believe that it is due to climate change. But think a bit; these disasters have occurred historically and there is a good reason that they are deemed “natural,” and that is because they are inherent in Nature. Many are quick to deem the recent Christmas rains a result of climate change. However, as a child growing up in Park Hill, I remember many years of very heavy rains, when many springs developed on our hillsides. I remember walking the village roads and seeing water gushing from the banks along the road. Very often a villager would stick the middle vein of a banana leaf into the softened bank and water would run along the vein allowing villagers to fill buckets. In those days when we had just two standpipes in the village and they were often dry; we were glad for this water from our soaked hillsides.

We are being told that the use of carbon fuels and the production of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, is causing the planet to warm up.

Is there some coincidence that we have an over-abundance of carbon dioxide at the same time that our forests are being destroyed and not rejuvenated? Simple biology tells us that plants use carbon dioxide to photosynthesize food and the by-product of this process is oxygen. So, if we had more trees to use up this excess carbon dioxide, would there be this problem? If, like me, you were living in Canada and very often have to face a temperature of minus 40 degrees Celsius you would say bring on global warming! But despite all this talk of global warming, we continue to experience bitterly cold winters. And imagine the last ice age, it must have required a phenomenal amount of global warming to melt all that ice that covered 10 million square miles of the earth and bring it back to a habitable environment. Where did that global warming come from? There were no automobiles back then and there was no petroleum industry. Is there much wonder that I am a sceptic?

We are told that global warming is causing some low-lying countries to in time be completely wiped out. Let us remember that some of these low-lying countries are merely sand deposits, mere specks in vast oceans, just a few feet above sea level and they are no match for the forces of nature. Sea levels have risen and fallen historically and small rises in sea level will flood and erode many of these low-lying sandy countries. Even in attached countries, such as Bangladesh, much of the land mass is a mere 20 feet above sea level and has been at the mercy of the annual monsoons for centuries.

Historically, Asia was linked to North America by a land bridge and the British Isles were linked to mainland Europe. We hear legends of lost lands like Gondwanaland and Atlantis. There are records of several drowned cities – Port Royal in Jamaica, Atlit-Yam in Israel, Pavlopetri and Helike in Greece, Dunwich in the U.K., Runghot in the Isle of Strand, and parts of Crete. In the volcanic archipelago of Japan, new islands rise above the sea; some continue to grow and others succumb to the forces of nature and disappear again. Even on our homeland of St Vincent, it is reckoned that the flat lands located generally at the 700 foot contour, for example at Akers Flat, were once at sea level and the island’s coastline has changed dramatically.
The White Cliffs of Dover have been falling into the English Channel ever since the British Isles last separated from Europe. This is not unlike the recent slumping at Drop Off. There are stories handed down, whereby our older generations remember a time when the sea at Belle Vue, Mt. Greenan and San Souci were right up to the cliffs, evidenced by salt deposits in the cliffs. In time beaches formed and were all connected, so that one could walk along them. Now the beaches have been reclaimed by the sea – natures cycles. The Rocky Mountains and the Himalayas are composed of sedimentary rocks that were laid down under water, yet today they are the world’s tallest mountains that in time will be worn down and flattened by the forces of nature, and new mountain ranges will emerge. So, the earth’s land mass has historically changed and continues to change; it is the cycle of Nature, that is why it is difficult for me to attribute the flooding and erosion of low-lying coastlines to the operation of automobiles.

To be continued on Friday, May 16.