Wednesday, 25 October 2006

There's always the sun

Friends of ours who watched an interview with Al Gore (but not the feature film An Inconvenient Truth) have said that he failed to convince them, appearing as a dodgy character that wants to make money out of his book/film combo. They also said that they found this website where a scientist, claiming to be an outcast the others scorn, claims that global warming is the result of cyclical solar flares. He claims there is a pattern in these flares, and that according to these patterns the world will be to normal weather patterns after 2007 (whatever normal means).
Now, I have a problem accepting such statements.

First, I have to say that solar activity could be a major source for weather patterns here on earth. As far as I can tell from my readings, there are three main things that could cause global weather changes aside of things that come from the earth's inside: Changes to the earth's rotation and orbit, the greenhouse effect, and changes to solar activities.
The problem I have with the solar flare theory is that, to the best of my knowledge, this is a phenomenon we don't really understand. We know it involves huge magnetic fields, we know it concentrates around sun spots, we know it throws huge amounts of radiation out - but that's it. The news about detecting cyclical patters there are new to me; I have never heard of them before and I am yet to hear of explanations as to why these cycles happen in the first place. The way it has been presented so far, it sounds to me too much like "you're a Taurus, you insist on not eating bananas, therefore you're stubborn, therefore astrology is right".
What I'm trying to say is that in order for me to accept such a theory I need plenty of proof, not just conspiracy like statements saying the scientists and Al Gore have banded together to make lots of money of this rumor called global warming due to the greenhouse effect. The current level of explanations requires one to have faith, which is something I'd leave for religion.

Second, there is the now well known fact that energy companies are financing everybody that is willing to say anything that even slightly contradicts anything to do with global warming.
Back in the seventies, for example, Dupont - the world's biggest manufacturer of CFC's, the killer of the ozone layer - did the same. Cigarette companies have been doing the same for years and years.
Therefore, a website making a rather unorthodox claim faces the onus of proving itself even more than under normal circumstances.
Still, we shouldn't let such hurdles stop us from exposing the truth: many of the things we are now taking for granted sounded awfully foolish not that long ago. Just ask Galileo about his adventures with the church.

Third, the solar flare theory says it can explain temperature changes taking place in the last 150 years, the time in which we chronicled weather information.
While that may sound ok to the laymen, this does not mean much: through plenty of means available to science today we can tell what the weather was like hundreds of thousands of years ago (for example, through air bubbles trapped in the ice caps).
A theory that pretends to explain stuff should be able to go further back than 150 years.

Fourth, scientists who talk about global warming do not talk about temperatures alone.
While this new theory of solar flares could potentially explain a temperature rise, it cannot address other issues that go part and parcel with global warming.
Advocates of the green house theory talk about the rise in CO2 particles in our atmosphere. Soon enough we will reach the 500 parts per million threshold (ppm), and from what we know of earth's history such a ratio was never reached without some major calamity wiping out most living stuff on the planet. I do not know whether CO2 ppm is the cause or the result of such a calamity, but since history tends to repeat itself it is definitely a worry.
Sea acidity is also on the rise, due to more and more CO2 being absorbed by the seas. This causes temperature changes and current changes, as well as giving rise to all sorts of weeds that are not particularly friendly to the other sea animals on which we rely for food.

Fifth, by looking at other planets in our solar systems we can easily see the effects of the greenhouse effect. Venus, the planet closest to us, is constantly boiling at 480 degrees due to its eternal cloud layer. Other planets and some of the Jupiter and Saturn moons provide similar evidence to varying degrees; the relative simplicity of these environments, when compared to the earth's living environment, makes it easy to witness the greenhouse effect.

But even if after all of the above explanations we still doubt the green house theory - and let me make it clear that I have my own doubts, since I still have to take certain things presented to me as facts by just believing them (I was never there to witness the solar caps melting, for a start) - there is one very good reason for me to want to do something about the phenomenon commonly referred to as "global warming".
And that reason is simple: I cannot accept the notion that we, humans, can do whatever we want with the small planet we live on - chop things, burn things, contaminate things - without those things coming back to haunt us. It is physically impossible to avoid that.
And the sooner we start doing something about it, the sooner we start living in harmony with our environment rather than living by exploiting our environment, the better.
The sun may flare at will and we can do nothing about it; but there is a lot that is under our control which we are currently neglecting or abusing.

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