The sheer number of drivers "speaks" to the complexity of understanding climate change. The principal influence of each of the drivers and their impact is shown in the table below. Some drivers exert a more immediate influence while others contribute over much longer time scales. CO2 (carbon dioxide) is one of the drivers and while everyone agrees that CO2 does contribute to climate change as a greenhouse gas, the magnitude of CO2 's influence has not been settled within the overall scientific community, the political systems, the media or the population in general. We have determined that CO2 's influence, while significant at low concentrations in the atmosphere, is of minor impact as more and more is added to the atmosphere, a view that we address in the following Critical Facts list. For an expanded discussion of each of these 18 climate drivers, refer to our Recommended Reading List, "Fire, Ice, Paradise".
Once you observe that the climate drivers operate at time scales that range from immediate, like an impact of a meteor, a volcanic explosion, or a change in the sun's intensity, to influences that change over millions of years, such as the slow drifting of the continents, you can understand why Earth's climate history is one of constant change
Not only is this statement true, but the amount of solar (sun's) irradiance or heat leaving the sun does vary. A well followed example is the number of sunspots present on the surface of the sun at any one time and the length of the sunspot cycles. More sunspots, which have bright, hot haloes around them, correlate well with a warmer surface of the Earth. Fewer sunspots generally correlate with cooler times. Also, the length of the sunspot cycles correlates with Earth's temperature (see figure below). Trying to forecast the climate changes with models that do not include solar variations cannot be expected to result in reliable outcomes or ranges of outcomes.
That no one factor correlates perfectly with whether Earth's surface is warming or cooling is expected due to the fact that, while the sun is putting out a little more or less heat, Earth's distance from the sun in its orbit around the sun may be changing or the amount of cloud cover on Earth may be changing and exerting an opposite effect on the climate. Some of the drivers are predictable, like Earth's orbital variations, while others, like solar intensity or volcanic explosion are not predictable at this time. Regarding atmospheric CO2, as oceans become warmer they release more CO2 into the atmosphere, as does a bottle of carbonated water as it warms. As oceans become cold they tend to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere.
In summary, the sun is Earth's ultimate heat engine and thus plays a dominant role in determining global warming or cooling. Changes in ocean currents also affect earth's climate in a major way but oceans receive their heating predominantly from the sun.
In 1999, more than a decade after the "manmade CO2 is the major cause of global warming" hypothesis became popular and many prominent politicians and academics had taken strong public positions in favor of that view, a startling discovery was made and came to light that atmospheric CO2 changes followed, not caused, temperature changes (see figure below). This was a paradigm changing discovery because the cause of climate change, which had been assumed to be CO2, was now revealed to be following, not causing climate change. Yet, those who had declared so boldly that man was committing another sin against nature try to play down the significance of the discovery. Even those who made the discovery were almost apologetic in their release of the information. After all, we now had a generation or more that had been taught that almost anything humans did was bad for the planet and this included our school children, now grown up, as well as teachers and professors who had taught only one view of the subject to their classes for years and years.
The push was either to prove it wasn't true or to minimize the significance that changes in atmospheric CO2 were not the initial cause of temperature changes. So they moved to the "well, it still causes positive feedback or amplifies the temperature change" which in the case of warming had been caused by a (shock!) naturally occurring event. It goes like this; temperature rises which then causes a rise in CO2 , presumably released from the oceans, and that additional CO2 causes a rise in temperature, which then causes a release of still more CO2 and on and on. This they say could lead to runaway global warming and roast the planet. The problem is, this runaway that they were and still are predicting, has never occurred, at least not in the last 500 million years of Earth's temperature history, even though naturally occurring CO2 levels have been as high as 7,000 parts per million versus the warming catastrophists' predictions that a simple doubling or less of our current 400 ppm will cause runaway warming. Despite the real world, empirical data, the logic seems to be lost on those who want to believe that man, once again, is the culprit. We concur that man has been the culprit many times and many ways on environmental issues but in this case, from what we now have learned regarding CO2 's influence on Earth's plant and animal kingdoms, man's activities causing a rise in airborne CO2 appears totally beneficial. Remember, a cause does not follow an effect.
Decades ago it was determined that CO2 's ability to trap heat rising from Earth's surface declines logarithmically or very rapidly (see first figure below). This means that early on, at low concentrations, CO2 does exert a significant warming of the lower atmosphere. But as the absorption bands in which CO2 captures this rising hear begin to get saturated, CO2 can capture less and less heat with each additional unit of CO2 . Depending on how sensitive or reactive one thinks Earth is to additional CO2 , the level of influence of rising CO2 today can be very small or still of significant impact. Once again, we have chosen the path recommended long ago by Winston Churchill who once said, "The farther backward you look, the farther forward you are likely to see." As we look back at Earth's climate history, far beyond the popular 1980's and 1990's which happened to see a supposedly rapid rise in temperature coinciding with a real and admittedly rapid rise in airborne CO2 , we find many examples where rises in CO2 were accompanied by declining temperatures (see the Predictions vs. Reality figure below).
These real world observations lead us to believe that Earth is not very sensitive to CO2 and that many other factors have a stronger influence on the climate. This is one of the reasons that one of the world's most prominent scholars, Professor of Meteorology, Dr. Richard Lindzen of M.I.T., has been "going crazy" for decades at humanity's infatuation that CO2 is a major cause of global warming. ("Resisting Climate Hysteria" by Richard S. Lindzen, 7-26-09)
Observe how rapidly (logarithmically) CO2's ability to cause additional temperature rise declines. Warming from a doubling (or tripling) atmospheric co2 will be very small. This physical limitation explains how Earth could have entered an ice age when CO2 levels were several thousand parts per million. Note that CO2's warming effect is strong only at low levels of atmospheric CO2, predominantly at less than 100 ppm.
As previously discussed in Critical Facts 4 and 5, empirical (real) observations are important. A hypothesis such as "manmade CO2 is a (or the) major cause of global warming" must stand up to testing by real world observations to continue to be valid. Observe Critical Facts numbers 4 and 5 again to see that Earth's temperatures have declined for decades as CO2 levels continued to rise. Observed in the figures below how temperatures have varied even though the ice cores and IPCC data show that CO2 levels remain quite stable at approximately 280 ppm with the exception of the last 150 years. Also note that the recent rate of change is not unprecedented, a fact now admitted by Professor Phil Jones who directed the Climate Research Unit a East Anglia University that fed data to the IPCC committees.
Clearly other drivers were powering climate change on decade-long scales. Looking back over 1,000 years, we find that the supposedly stable interglacial CO2 concentration of 280 ppm, as professed by the manmade warming advocates, was accompanied by centuries-long temperature rises and falls. Doesn't this make you want to stop and think what could be the agenda of those who would choose to ignore the real data and even be willing to reduce the input of something as beneficial to the Earth as CO2?
Our goal is to educate the public on these astonishing benefits of more airborne CO2 and in doing so, help protect these benefits from being diminished in the name of a hypothesis that we believe has been proven false.
Climate models that have focused on and been tuned to demonstrate a significant impact by CO2 on Earth's climate have generally failed the test of simply explaining the changes that have occurred in Earth's past climate where the answers are already known. Couple this with the fact that the forecasts of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models of the past 19 years have already failed in their projections of early 21st century global cooling (see figure below). The current global temperatures fall below even the the lowest rise projected by the IPCC models. These forecasts of the last many years are no longer called forecasts (since they have failed) but are now being called just possible scenarios. Regardless, none of the models or scenarios allowed for what is actually occurring. The most likely cause of the failure of the IPCC models is that the modelers were charged with finding the manmade signal in the climate and, given the lack of preciseness of the many factors that go into the models and the modeler's inability to choose the magnitude of the effect of many factors, it is likely that none of the modelers wanted (or expected) to show no significant effect by manmade CO2 . Astonishingly, the modelers were even told by the leaders of the IPCC to ignore variations in solar effects which would include not only variations in solar intensity but also in the possible effect of solar magnetic variations on shielding the Earth from the potential influence of cosmic rays in cloud generation that could help cool the earth.
Note the monthly global temperatures; up, down, steep rise, low rise, etc. all this despite a steady increase in CO2 that is in Earth's atmosphere 24/7, worldwide.
Nearly all media, the politicians and even some of the scientists who declared so firmly their belief that manmade CO2 is the major driver in recent (until about 8 years ago) global warming, have continued to profess that the science is settled and we should now turn to how to get rid of manmade CO2 . The consensus cry is not only misleading, it is simply not true (see figures below). Wouldn't you prefer to see real, scientific debates on what is or is not causing global warming or global climate change instead of just hearing the false claim that the science is settled? Demand the debates. When someone claims the science is settled, ask them if they would be willing to publically debate the issue. There should be plenty of scientists nearby to challenge them in the debate. And if you too, begin to have doubts about the veracity of the earlier consensus, weigh your doubts against the tremendous and extensively documented benefits of more CO2 for the plant and animal kingdoms.
9. More research is needed on all climate drivers; not just a focus on one driver. Billions of dollars have been spent trying to assess the impact of manmade CO2 on the climate to the detriment of more thorough examinations of the impacts of the other, natural drivers of climate change. Also, there have been few dollars spent on researching what mitigating things need to be done should climate, from whatever causes, get appreciably warmer or, in particular, colder. Research on the ice cores and deep sea sediments indicates that when Earth is colder, it is also windier and drier. These conditions are very bad for agriculture and humanity as well as the robustness and number of habitats available to the plants and animals. Read more >>