by Doug Magill
Grander earth has quaked before,
Moved by the sound of His voice.
And seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard.
There is a sign at Volcano National Park in Hawaii that claims greenhouse emissions can be reduced by limiting the most common sources of carbon dioxide (CO2): transportation, solid waste and energy production. One presumes the National Park Service has no sense of irony, as nearby is the caldera for an active volcano, Kilauea. This volcano has been erupting since 1983, its record one of the longest.
Civic-minded propaganda aside, one has to search elsewhere to find out that Kailauea emits at least 4,000 tons per day of sulfur dioxide, presumably without a permit from the now-godlike EPA. That amount of SO2 sometimes exceeds the capability of current instrumentation to measure. It also emits more than 4,000 gallons per minute of water vapor and about 10,000 tons per day of carbon dioxide. For comparison, the average car emits about five tons of CO2 per year. There are other chemicals put into the atmosphere every day such as hydrogen, hydrogen chloride (which results in acid rain downwind), hydrogen fluoride and carbon monoxide.
There’s more: at least a ton a day of lead, copper, gold, silver, zinc, bismuth and mercury are wafted into the air by Kilauea.
Such has been the story of volcanoes throughout history, particularly ones in modern history: massive amounts of gases, ash and contaminants spewed into the sky. Current estimates are that active volcanoes emit 300 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Krakatoa alone (1883) disturbed weather patterns for years, lowered average temperatures and caused a year without summer around the world. Timbora, in 1816, caused global disruptions on an even greater scale. There have been others, tending to wreak havoc with the media’s favorite oracles – climate models.
Some models claim that the effects of Krakatoa alone lasted for a century and caused ocean cooling which delayed global warming due to human activity. Then again, more recent studies say that those models incorrectly accounted for heat sink effects and conclude human activity will not have as great an effect on atmospheric CO2 therefore temperature changes will not be as great as originally predicted.
Ah, computer models. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
Having been involved with some of the earliest computer modeling in automotive manufacturing, I can state that it had a revolutionary effect on how cars are designed, and how quickly. It subsequently became an essential part of aeronautical engineering, and Boeing’s recent Dreamliner, the 767, was exclusively designed with computer models (results still to be determined).
But there is a vast difference between design and prediction. The record for computer models in the predictive arena is much less impressive – just ask the Sales VP who got fired because his actual annual results did not match his forecast.
Or the weather people, for that matter.
I have been involved in the development and utilization of a number of computer models over the years, and there are inherent inaccuracies in every model, with increasing complexity of the model causing those inaccuracies to increase exponentially. Many times the coefficients in models are inexact, sometimes even guessed. They are really ranges of potential values. By tinkering with these you can get a whole range of results as well.
Robert Caprara, who developed computer models for the EPA wrote that his job was more like a lawyer than a scientist, building a case for his client. His epiphany occurred after his superiors kept having him tweak his models until the results they showed aligned with the department’s need for grant renewals. He stated “there is no denying that anyone who makes a living building computer models likely does so for the cause of advocacy, not the search for truth.”
We know that climate computer models are wrong simply because they have already been refuted by experience. Even though they may be marvels of programming and design and take weeks to run on the world’s most powerful supercomputers, their ability to model an incredibly complex and chaotic climate is not only impossible today – it will never be possible (See Dr. Christopher Essex’s lecture on the limitations of computer modelling) . It is silly to even presume that what is done with a programming language could even resemble what happens in the world.
Another volcanic eruption on the scale of a Krakatoa or Timbora would render most climate models obsolete overnight.
There is also the data question. The daily emissions estimates from Kilauea were revised upward in 2014 by a factor of 2. Moreover, estimates of the results of volcanic eruptions worldwide are certainly not exact. A recent book on air pollution noted that “It has been estimated that all air pollution resulting from human activity does not equal the quantities released during three volcanic eruptions: Krakatoa in Indonesia in 1883, Katmai in Alaska in 1912, and Hekla in Iceland in 1947.”
The operative word is “estimated.” And therein lies the big issue. The accuracy of any model is dramatically affected by the quality of the data. Any person with experience in converting computer systems will tell you that if the data isn’t good, the results can be wildly problematic.
In climate science there are layers of estimates on top of layers of assumptions. It is well known that the desperadoes at East Anglia modified their data. Michael Mann of the now-discredited “hockey-stick” graph on global temperatures left out any data that didn’t fit his conclusion, including historical warming periods. Congress is investigating data adjustments by the unionized bureaucrats at NASA which always result in earlier temperatures being adjusted downwards to make recent years seem warmer by comparison. A recent announcement that 2014 was the warmest year on record was quickly followed up by a more quiet notification that maybe it wasn’t. There have been recent articles about data adjustments at remote locations like Paraguay for no explainable reason. Adjustments, by the way, that also make the past seem cooler and today warmer by comparison.
The questions about data are not only germane, they are critical. One has to wonder at the utility of surface temperature readings that encompass only 30% of the earth’s surface (though there are a few on ships) and that have to be adjusted to be meaningful. Satellite measurements cover only a few recent decades and show no warming trend.
Yet the climate is changing. It always has. Ice core samples, tree-ring analysis and other arcane fields of study tell us the earth has been warmer in the past. Settlements in Hudson’s Bay and Greenland and new discoveries in the Alps tell us in warmer times there were places colonized that have not recently seemed very habitable.
When terms like “settled science” and “consensus” are hurled as a means to eliminate questions, one has to wonder what scientists really mean when the word “certainty” creeps into the conversation.
Mike Kimmit early this year wrote about 10 new species recently discovered, which shouldn’t be a surprise as there are estimates that there may be up to 10 million more to be discovered. Yet other scientific sources tell us about estimates that 99% of all species that ever existed are extinct. Those wonderful guys in the white coats who opine about facts don’t really know how many species there have been or are or will be.
Science, thy motto is “estimate” – with the intent to frighten.’
And thy purpose is to drive political debate with the result of more funding.
There are also more fundamental questions we should be aware of and discussing. Our air is about 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen, .9% argon and .038% carbon dioxide (CO2). Of what are considered greenhouse gases, water vapor is 90% and carbon dioxide is 4%. Of that 4%, mankind contributes about 3% which comes out to about .12% of greenhouse gases that are the result of human activity. I have yet to see a reasonable explanation of the connection between what seems like negligible amounts of carbon dioxide and global climate change. There is a huge assumption at work: more carbon dioxide means global climate change. Which leads to the next huge assumption: human contributions of carbon dioxide are causing an increase in carbon dioxide.
Greenhouse gases are essential to life on earth and levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have been higher in the past; but they have lagged global temperature changes. Correlation certainly does not imply causation. Such inferences get us back to that “science by estimation” circus leading to the supposition game that has become the world of science today.
National Geographic has swallowed the whole global warming mythology right up to its rod and reel. A recent issue devoted a great deal of copy speculating what southern Florida would look like if sea levels were to rise five feet. It certainly wouldn’t be pretty, but the article elided over the whole greenhouse gas thing to the presumptions that global warming is occurring, increases in carbon dioxide are to blame and mankind is causing it. That’s a lot of speculation wrapped in an apocalyptic view.
One thing they did mention was a developer who is planning on making money off the whole climate change thing by building luxury homes on tethered islands that would be unaffected by sea level changes. One has to love an opportunist who can find a way to make money regardless of circumstances.
When all is said and done there is room for questions and debate. Nothing as complex as our environment will be settled science, no matter how angrily liberals scream that it is. There are lots of questions and much to be known. Certainly when one considers that millions of lives can be affected by the imposition of new taxes, the concomitant reduction in standards of living, and the reallocation of huge portions of our economy to government control to affect something that may not be caused by us and may not be changed by anything possible we could do.
Unfortunately that is the liberal ethic these days: change without regard to consequences. Certainly there will be no concern about those who will lose by their proposals, particularly the poor. Environmental extremism has conquered California, and the recent drought has caused farmers to have to line up for food stamps. Not due to the drought, but rather because of regulations, lack of investment in water management and misallocation of resources to protect fish even though farmers are bankrupted.
When we were given dominion over the earth in Genesis, that did not mean control as anyone who has felt an earthquake, seen a tornado, escaped a hurricane or has watched the relentless advance of lava can attest. We were given stewardship, which implies care and responsibility. I suspect most people agree that we need to respect and use the earth wisely.
My grandfather’s generation celebrated the advance of the automobile because of the increasing waste inundating cities due to horses. It won’t happen in my lifetime and probably not my children’s, but someday our use of fossil fuels will be superseded by something else. In the mean time we need to use what the earth provides while working to enhance and improve the lives of all.
Ultimately we need to remember that something majestic is at work. Science can see some things, but there are still vast mysteries for which we are incapable of understanding or even knowing how to comprehend.
We know that humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii every year to mate, calve and nurse their young. To see them and to hear their plaintive cries underwater is breathtaking. But, we don’t know why or how they initially learned to do this. Yet it is majestic.
There are indeed millions of species yet to be discovered, and many of them are in the deeps where we have very little knowledge. One can look at the stars to see the enormity of a universe unknowable in human terms. Incredible mysteries yet to be seen, and maybe never to be understood.
This grand earth is majestic and has changed dramatically in the past and will do so again. It is well. Hubris aside what we do or do not do will have little effect through millennia as the earth will abide. Our most important thing to learn about it is awe.
Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see.
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea.
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name.
Doug Magill is a former IT executive, communications consultant, voice-over talent and freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyrics are from It is Well, by Christine DiMarco, Bethel Music