Global Warming – a historical perspective

Earth has never had a stable climate. This is a fact that climatologists will tell you, if you ask the right questions – of the right climatologists.

If we want to know the history of the planet’s climate, one would think we should consult someone who specializes in “Historical Climatology”, but the method known by that label is the study of climate as related to human history and thus focuses only on the last few thousand years.

Another approach, known as Paleoclimatology, reconstructs past climates by examining records such as ice cores and tree rings. This method gives us a much longer historical span, and allows us to see patterns that indicate cycles in the Earth’s weather. From these folks, we learn that the planet has survived several Ice Ages and several periods during which temperatures warmed. There has always been a cycle of warming and cooling. We do not know why that has been the case, but the record indicates that this is natural.

Today’s climate specialists are quick to assure us that the current warming trend they are tracking is not in line with patterns established before. Since it does not fit the natural cyclical course of Earth’s history, they conclude that human activity is the cause. They may be correct. Were it not for the increase of greenhouse gases, we would be experiencing the onset of another Ice Age! In fact, those same specialists were warning us of that likelihood a mere thirty years ago. Based upon the long historical record, it seemed the logical next step.

But the Historical Climatology people, – the ones who study the relatively short range of history that is limited to the brief time humans have called Earth home – noticed a pattern that has gone by several names. The most common being: Global Warming (a misnomer, since only some parts of the planet are warming while other parts are predicted to get cooler) and Climate Change (a truer statement, but one that does not evoke the emotional effect of the former).

What has been lacking in this debate is the question of what would have happened if we humans had not tampered with nature. The answer is evident by history and by the climate models used as recently as thirty years ago. The next question that must be asked is, if we are able to reverse the warming trend, what will prevent Global Cooling.

The planet has been hospitable to human life for a very short portion of its existence. Naturally, we would like to stop the warming/cooling cycle that is the natural course preferred by Earth, and stabilize the climate so that we can continue to call Earth our home forever. We are chastised by the likes of Al Gore for having the audacity to tamper with the climate of our revered planet, while being told that we have an obligation to “save the planet” by tampering even more.
Let us be clear. The planet does not need “saving”. It has survived all these millennium without our meddling. For all we know, the climate cycles that it has experienced may be necessary for the survival of the planet. But we, so very smart and self-assured as we are, will save ourselves, even if it is the wrong thing to do for the planet’s sake.