December 10, 2003
Farming And Forest Destruction Prevented Ice Age 5000 Years Ago
In a paper published in the scientific journal Climate Change Dr. William Ruddiman argues that humanity prevented an ice age that would otherwise have begun about 4,000 or 5,000 years ago.
Both should have continued declining through the present day, leading to lower temperatures, and a new ice age should have begun 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, Dr. Ruddiman said. Instead, levels of carbon dioxide reversed 8,000 years ago and starting rising again. The decline in methane levels reversed 5,000 years ago, coinciding with the advent of irrigation rice farming.
If this argument is correct then humanity, by engaging in rice farming and deforestation, reversed a trend of decline in atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane and, by doing so, prevented a cooling trend that would have brought on another ice age. This is a strong argument in favor of climate engineering.
All throughout the natural history of planet Earth the development of new life forms has altered the climate. The only difference between human intervention and intervention by other life forms is that humans have a higher level of sentience and hence can develop an awareness of the effects of their actions. But that awareness by itself is not a sufficient reason to refrain from acting in ways that alter the climate.
There is no stable state of climate that humans are disturbing. The climate has gone through many large changes because of variations in solar output, gradual changes in Earth's orbit, volcanic eruptions, asteroid strikes, and large assortment of other factors. It is likely do so again.
Humans could develop the ability to engineer the climate. Attempts to do so run the risk of causing some huge unforeseen outcome. But the biggest argument against climate engineering on a global scale is that most changes would hurt some nations while providing benefits to others. Warm the planet and Russia and Canada become more livable places. But perhaps other places will get less needed rains or will witness failures of crops due to shifting rain patterns or temperature changes. Any attempt to reach a global agreement on climate engineering would be hard to achieve unless humanity was faced with a disaster that only climate engineering could prevent.
Update: BBC science correspondent Richard Black says Ruddiman's theory is plausible.
Professor Ruddiman, of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Virginia, believes this 10,000-year warming added almost a degree Celsius to the global average temperature.
This though is a radical departure from existing theories about climate change and will inevitably be debated by other researchers.
But there is supporting evidence, and it is consistent with what we know about deforestation and farming today.
Duke University global warming researcher Thomas Crowley says Ruddiman's theory is plausible as well.
The idea is likely to spark debate among climate scientists, but at least one sceptic is already changing his mind. "I hadn't fully appreciated the actual magnitude of the human disturbance," says Thomas Crowley, who works on global warming at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. "I've been thinking more and more that Ruddiman is on to something."
Technological advances in coming decades will gradually increase the ability of humans to engage in intentional climate engineering. Instead of having climates engineered as an unintentional side effect it will become possible to modify regional and global climates with conscious intent. Climate changes naturally and our ability to predict how the climate will change without human intervention will increase along with our ability to predict how much and what sorts of changes will come as side effects of human interventions. Those who oppose all human intervention in climate trends will eventually be faced with computer climate models that will be able to show with fairly high probability what the world climate would be like right now or 50 years from now had humans not developed agriculture or any other technology. If the gap between what is and what would have been turns out to be really large the opponents of human-caused climate change are then going to have to explain why we shouldn't engineer the climate to be more like it would have been if we had never developed agriculture. Ice age anyone? If not, why not?
It takes a strong polemic death wish to embrace Ruddiman's _Climate Change_ paper as evidence arguing against political intervention to slow climate change today
World population circa 3000 BC was less than 1% of today's, and metal was still too rare to figure greatly in agriculture . Forest clearance was largely a Flintstone family outing affair, and while setting forest fires, which began in the paleolithic, may indeed have impacted post-glacial CO2 levels the release of methane from thawing tundra in the aftermath of glacial retreat is likely a far larger source of that gas than the eructions of paleolithic and early chalcolithic rice paddies
But the question that Ruddiman's work really begs is this:
If less than ten million technologically impoverished farmers working in consort with a bunch of forest dwellers without a pack of matchers to their name can derange climate in ways detectable five millennia later, what ever can six billion people armed with the whole panoply of modern technology be doing in terms of climate change today ?
Parker has just scored a touchdown against his own side
I don't deny we can cause larger changes than humans could several thousand years ago. I don't deny that we are actually causing some climate changes. What I question is whether human-caused climate changes are automatically bad. Why is a different climate that is, on average, warmer something that is worse than we have now. As it currently stands a large portion of the globe is too cold to support very many people. Few want to live in Fargo North Dakota or Winnipeg (aka Winterpeg) Canada.
There is evidence that the CO2 build-up is causing plants to grow into the Negev and Sahara deserts. The plants grow better because they can lose less water to get the CO2 they need to do photosynthesis. Surely this is not the only benefit of climate warming. But the opponents of global warming only seem to tally up the costs and never explore the possible benefits.
As for what 6 billon can do to the climate today: That is nothing at all compared to what 9 or 10 billion are going to be able to do when technology has advanced by leaps and bounds 50 years from now. I expect humans will eventually start trying to change the climate on purpose rather than as a side-effect of their activities.
I think it is would be an pointless waste of money to try to prevent climate change today. Far better to wait for technological advances that will make it easier and orders of magnitude cheaper to do climate engineering 20 or 30 or 40 years from now. People who feel a sense of urgency about climate change ought to support accelerating the basic research needed to be able to do climate engineering. I'm personally fond of the idea of developing artificial catalysts that will do the equivalent of photosynhesis to turn sunlight into cost-effective hydrocarbon fuels. Then we could build an artificial carbon cycle and continue to use hydrocarbons for transportation. Though we might need at some point to return to burning coal if it looks like the Earth is beginning to enter a new ice age.
The article makes you wonder who many species would have gone extinct in the ice age that was allegedly averted. In any case, I think the safest approach to global climate engineering is to not engage in it unless some great disaster alters the climate for the worse (I've read for instance that the Solar System might occassionally pass through interstellar dust cloud that dim the sun.) I agree also that the best way to fight global warming is to develop cleaner energy sources and technology. The Kyoto Protocol had good objectives but it had an unrealistic time frame.
Evidence from Antarctic ice-cores indicates that the rise in temperature at the beginning of each interglacial precedes the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by between 600 and 1200 years. The implication here is that the rise in CO2 may be caused by the rise in temperature rather than the other way around. One wonders if Professor Ruddiman's theory has misread cause and effect.
There are two possible reasons for the rise in atmospheric CO2 in a warming world. If sea surface temperature rises, some of the CO2 in the water boils off into the atmosphere. (Put a pan of water on the stove and watch the tiny bubbles develop immediately.) The other reason involves the ongoing battle between flora and fauna as to what should happen to CO2.
Flora are constantly trying to turn CO2 from their surroundings into carbon based structures and waste oxygen, thus producing the unfeasably low concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere as well as the unfeasably high level of oxygen, while fauna are constantly trying to turn complex carbon based structures, (flora), into their own structures as well as combining carbon with oxygen to produce energy, (and waste carbon dioxide). There is evidence that in a warmer wetter world the fauna, mostly at the microscopic level where much of this battle rages, become more efficient at their task.
Trying to engineer the climate by reducing the very low levels of carbon dioxide still further runs the risk of upsetting the carbon cycle, on which virtually all life on this planet depends, and demonstrating the law of unintended consequences in a rather graphic manner.
At our present levels of knowledge and technology the only feasble reaction to climate change - and remember temperature can go down as well as up - is to Adapt or Die.
Randall Parker ,replying to my December 10 note , thinks it :
"Far better to wait for technological advances that will make it easier and orders of magnitude cheaper to do climate engineering 20 or 30 or 40 years from now.People who feel a sense of urgency about climate change ought to support accelerating the basic research needed to be able to do climate engineering."
There are , broadly speaking, four modalities of 'climate engineering', two terrestial:
Albedo modification and vegetation modification, which overlap, and ocean fertilization and macrohydrology- - as in flooding desert depressions or diverting rivers- the Salton and Aral Seas being unintentional examples. .
I have written in encouragement of research on iron fertilization of phytoplankton ,and reducing heat island effects by limiting urban blacktopping and high albedo crops and surface coatings on a larger scale, but the sheer area involved entails mass budgets that are unlikely to fall by "orders of magnitude" Such proposals vary from uncontroversial - a pale concrete parking lot is tens of degrees cooler than an asphalt one, and the choice of paving materialon a long driveway is as relevant to radiative forcing of climate as whether the vehicle parked at the end of it is a hybrid or a hummer-, to the problematic : what happens to the carbon in dead plankton ?
Yet I find it disingenoius to switch attention to local issues when the difficulty of solving global problems manifests itself. I know some few worthy Winnipeg dwellers who wisely remove themselves to the Grenadines when winter rolls around, taking a month's supply of beef along as a precaution. Few of them seem enthused about the prospect of radiative forcing raising January overnight lows from -30 to -29 without some guarantee that it won't cost them an inch of rain come summer.
I have seen arguments that human caused climate changes will have bad results because of the effects on agriculture and coastal cities, as well as other reasons. I've never seen anyone argue that human caused climate change is bad because it is caused by humans regardless. You imply such arguments have been made. Where?
I have seen arguments trying to prove that climate change is being caused by humans, but none that claimed than made it bad in itself. The gist was that we were causing it so if it was proven bad for other reasons we should think how we could ameliorate it, as opposed to saying it wasn't human caused so we couldn't affect it.
Russell, Disingenuous? Is that your way of saying you don't like it when people do not see global warming as a global problem? Attack their character because they don't see the issue the way you want them to?
Global warming is not a global problem. CO2 and methane are emitted all over the globe and so you could argue that the causes are global. But it will not cause problems everywhere. It may cause problems in some locations while causing improvements in conditions in other locations. For instance, the CO2 build-up that is causing global warming is also causing plants to grow into deserts. Therefore it might lead to a boost in crop growth - especially for crops bred to grow faster in higher CO2 environments - and that will reduce water needs of crops and hence increase yields in many areas. It might increase world food production by increasing the lengths of growing seasons while simultaneously increasing plant growth rates. It will also make currently either unlivable or highly undesirable places nicer places to live in.
As for the "four modalities of 'climate engineering'": That is hardly an exhaustive list. I've already, for instance, mentioned the idea of developing catalysts to do light-driven carbon fixing as a way to generate hydrocarbon fuels and create an artificial carbon cycle. Once technology advances far enough such an approach might not even be a net cost because the hydrocarbon fuels might be worth more than the costs of building and operating the system.
As for costs falling by orders of magnitude: Some techniques will not fall by that much. But surely any techniques involving plants and much smaller organisms will become cheaper by orders of magnitude as a result of enormous advances in biotechnology and techniques for using plants that are not doable at all will become doable in the future. Also, if nanotube tech makes space elevators feasible then the cost of a space-based approach will fall by orders of magnitude as well.
David, The argument in the popular press is that if global warming is happening then it must be bad. Reasons why it must be bad are listed. Among them are the effects on agriculture. But it is far from clear that agriculture will be harmed by global warming and there are compelling arguments to be made that the opposite is the case.
Coastal cities: Yes, if ocean levels rise then there'd be real harm coming to some coastal cities. But if we knew the rising was coming years in advance the obvious response would be to build all new structure further inland. Some islands might be submerged though. Would it be cheaper to just dump more dirt on them rather than change the whole world's economy? It depends on all the other costs and benefits that would come from global warming.
Nothing ad hominem was intended - ingenuity , not disingeniuosness is indeed they key to the problem's solution, and your remarks on photocatalytic carbon fixation are indeed apposite.
But a lot of the phenomena are indeed global, because just as the atmosphere integrates emissions of gases over a decadal time scale, regardless of whether they are anthropogenic or a natural part of the biogeochemical carbon cycle, so too do the oceans. Retreating ice and snow cover raises global albedo, a rising tide line drowns all coasts, and ,despite the fondest hopes of biotechnologists, plants are going to go one respiring far more water vapor than they fix CO2 for as long as their phyla recognizably endure.
So the argument, not the arguer, that: "Global warming is not a global problem" can, alas , only be adduced at risk of bringing the D word to mind.
Wishing won't make carbon-carbon bonds any stronger than solid state physics dictates, so only when orbital tethers reach the end of theirs, and space elevator freight rates stagnate, will it be possible to compare the marginal cost-effectiveness of an orbital parasol the size of Arizona with a coat of whitewash or a crop of GM whatever of equivalent virtue in altering radiative forcing of climate.
The present art of the agriculturally possible is limited albedo-wise to your choice of seed catalogs ( Verbascum, Saltwort, or Silver Sage - take your pick), and glaucus wheat cultivars , and , since the antiquity of climate change is at isssue, the ever popular whitewash, which has been the mandated color for urban microclimate control in the Mediterranean since the days of Solon the Lawgiver.
Nowadays ,of course , we have better whitewash- titanium dioxide beats lime cold,and even humble paper pulp makes a dandy extender-- Eureka ! A philanthropic use for remaindered copies of Engines of Creation has been discovered !
Now _that_ is an ad hominem argument.
It was exceedingly thick and wet of me not to have proof-read my preceeding post tocatch and correct the relevant sentence to ' lowers ' rather than 'raises' global albedo
I can only repeat, I've never seen anyone make the argument that it's bad simply because it's human caused. In fact, all the arguments that Global Warming might be good come from groups who would vigorously oppose government spending to keep global warming going if it somehow stopped, and if it turned out that through some kind of complicated mechanism burning coal could prevent global warming, I don't think any of the current lobbyists claiming warming might be good would advocate limits, taxes, or regulations on coal burning.
Can you point me to some articles in the popular press which argue "if global warming is happening then it must be bad"? If they follow up with arguments that it could cause agricultural and other problems, I don't believe they can still be said to be making that claim, even if you are not convinced the supporting claims are sufficiently documented.
Interestingly enough, I've seen many arguments from groups financed by the fossil fuel industry denying that global warming was or could be caused by human beings. This might seem quite altruistic at first, considering they could try and take credit for many benefits.
Do you think the costs of rebuilding flooded coastal cities elsewhere should be paid by the nations in which those cities are located, or by those who cause and benefit from the warming? Will the latter two always be the same?
There is really a chicken-and-egg problem here.
Read William Calvin's ASCENT OF MIND, which deals with how the ice ages increased cranial capacity and overall human intelligence; and J. Philippe Rushton's RACE, EVOLUTION, AND BEHAVIOUR.
The previous ice ages increased intelligence in Europe and northeast Asia enough so that permanent settlements and developed agriculture became possible. There had been previous let-ups between the various ice ages, but the cumulative effects on IQ were not great enough to allow technological advancements until the final ice age.
Thus, the affects on human intelligence of previous ice ages ultimately prevented this latest potential ice age.
Interestingly, based on skelatol evidence, northeast Asians were not more intelligent (on average) than Europeans until about 20,000 years ago, during the last and most severe ice age in that part of the world. Those people that left NE Asia at or before that time (e.g., SE Asians, Polynesians, Native Americans) average about 90 on IQ tests (using a UK mean of 100) while NE Asians average about 105.
I still believe it is primarily the long and short cycles of solar activity - John Daly is still the one I believe - www.johndaly.com. On this great day of capturing the Butcher of Baghdad, his joke about Baghdad Bob is fitting - see end of my links:
MIT - email@example.com
Sun in frenzy since 1940, Germans say
Wed Oct 29 2003 10:05:09 ET
German scientists who have created a 1,000-year-record of sunspots said Wednesday they discovered the Sun has been in a frenzy since 1940 and this may be a factor in global warming.
The research, based on the quantities of the isotope beryllium 10 found in ice bores from Greenland and the Antarctic, challenges the belief that carbon dioxide from cars and coal fires and other greenhouse gases are the only cause of recent warmer climates.
The team from the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy in Germany and Finland's Oulu University discovered a past phase of elevated sunspot activity between 1100 and 1250, though there were far fewer sunspots then than today.
The earth was very warm at that time and Vikings were recorded as farming on Greenland.
A gas cloud from one of the largest flares ever seen on the Sun reached the Earth this week causing a magnetic storm that disrupted radio and radar systems, forcing safety authorities to space out airline traffic. More flares and disruption are expected.
The findings, which are to appear in the December issue of Physical Review Letters, chart sunspots back to the year 850. Sunspots were first observed in the early 17th century after the discovery of the telescope.
Astronomers have made on-again-off-again notes ever since of the spots, where the Sun's surface appears darker because magnetic fields disrupt the outflow of energy from the star's interior. Most of the surface is 5,800 degrees celsius, but a spot is 1,500 degrees colder.
The 11-year cycle of sunspots from strong to weak to strong again is well known to anyone using shortwave radio, but the long-term fluctation was not plain.
The team said the surge of spots and gas flares since 1940 was the greatest in the entire period checked. The activity was 2.5 times the long-term average. Solar activity matched average temperatures on the Earth, they added.
Radioactive beryllium 10 used for the readings comes from cosmic rays bombarding nitrogen and oxygen in the air. The element falls to the ground with rain and snow. Layers are preserved in the ice caps.
Sunspots block cosmic rays from reaching the Earth, meaning less beryllium and increased ultraviolet radiation.
The statement Wednesday noted a much-discussed Danish hypothesis suggesting cosmic radiation helps tiny particles to form in air, increasing cloud formation. Sunspots would thus mean fewer clouds.
Sami K. Solanki, director of the German institute, said the team had discovered a new climate influence, but still believed recent climate change was mainly the result of mankind using more and more fossil fuels.
``Even after our findings, I would say the sharp increase in global temperatures since 1980 can still be mainly attributed to the greenhouse effect arising from carbon dioxide,'' professor Solanki said.
(American Society of Mechanical Engineers)
Is Russia Cool to Kyoto? READ STORY
Much of the proof that we are "still waiting for global warming" is in:
which has reports such as:
and backed up in other reports:
Friday, August 29, 2003
By Steven Milloy
I’m going to start with a potentially pedantic point about this week’s widely reported close encounter with Mars. I can’t resist because it meshes nicely with this week’s theme.
Every media outlet that I checked wrongly reported Mars’ supposed “visit.”
“Mars made its closest pass to the Earth in 60,000 years,” reported The Associated Press. The Washington Post reported that “Mars drifted closer to Earth than it ever has in human history.” CNN reported the two planets “passed” each other.
Earth to the media: Mars (search) never has and never will “approach” or “pass” the Earth.
It’s true that on Aug. 27, 2003, the Earth and Mars were closer together than they have been in 60,000 years, but not because Mars neared the Earth.
Planets that are closer to the sun (like Earth) move faster than planets further away (like Mars). This planetary motion is analogous to a faster car on the inside lane of an oval track passing a slower car on the outside lane. The Earth, in fact, passes Mars every 26 months.
So this week it was the Earth that passed Mars at a time when their respective orbits just happen to bring the two planets especially close together.
The reports of Mars “approaching” the Earth are reminiscent of the Greek astronomer Ptolemy’s (search) second-century view of the cosmos that the Earth is the center of the universe. Questioning Ptolemy’s universe was considered heresy by the Catholic Church (search ) until the 19th century.
Certainly this week’s erroneous news reports are due to the media’s ignorance or carelessness and not to any effort to re-impose theology on the cosmos. But they happen to coincide with more attempts on the part of the high priests of environmentalism to discredit and destroy anyone who dares to question eco-orthodoxy.
Bjorn Lomborg (search ) is a former eco-activist from Denmark who questioned alarmism over the environment in his attention-getting book "The Skeptical Environmentalist." Lomborg wrote, for example, that the dangers of global warming were exaggerated and that trying to slow it was a waste of money.
Lomborg became the subject of unprecedented, vicious attacks by the eco-activist community and its cadre of “scientists.”
Earlier this year, the Danish Research Agency (search) -- an organization supposedly similar to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences -- accused Lomborg of scientific dishonesty because of "The Skeptical Environmentalist."
Another panel of “scientists” formed by the Danish government concluded this week that Lomborg’s book was unscientific and of dubious value.
Also this week, an article in the Aug. 29 journal Science titled “False Alarm Over Environmental False Alarm” claimed that Lomborg’s book had been “officially” discredited and that society isn’t sufficiently sensitive about the environment.
But the only thing that seems to be official is Denmark’s relentless persecution of Lomborg for his “heretical” views.
This persecution has some similarities to that faced by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (search ) for his 1632 book, "Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World," in which he presented arguments for the Copernican cosmological system of the Earth revolving around the sun.
Galileo, the inventor of the practical telescope, used his astronomical observations to make his scientific case.
In 1633, the Papal Inquisition (search) and Pope Urban VIII (search) determined Galileo’s book to be heresy (search). Galileo was imprisoned and then sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life.
From John Daly's website:
Baghdad Bob (30 Apr 03)
The following notes were captured by anonymous Coalition personnel at the home of `Baghdad Bob' (formerly the Iraqi Information Minister). Their authenticity cannot be vouched for.
"God will roast the stomachs of all global warming skeptics in 2050."
"I now inform little Daly and his jackals that he is too far from reality."
"The unbelievers in global warming will be humiliated... To hurt them more, raise the number of weather stations in big cities. We will make Baghdad hot as hell for them."
"When we were making the Third Assessment Report, when we were writing the literature and the mathematics, and mapping the stars, the grandfathers of these unbelievers were scratching around in caves."
"This winter in Canada and America was completely an illusion. The infidels were really being roasted alive by our heroic followers".
"To those that claim that the 'Hockey Stick' (SEE REFERENCE) is false, I say that this is an illusion... they are trying to sell to the others an illusion. I say that we have debunked them completely.
God willing, I will provide you with more information in one hour."
i would like to know about the ice age about 10000yrs ago.if you have any infomantion about it piease send me a mail.
"Ice Age" is a wonderful film! Great scene! The cartoon effect is lifelike.
The elephant was so courage that dashed ahead regardless of its safety to save the tiger. That was like human.
Has anyone wanted to add the factors in such as the upcoming closest of Mars? This planet has never been this close to us in over 5000 years as it will be in August. This has to affect at the very least our climate, but what else? And will it be better or worse? Are we about to see volcanic eruptions, earthquakes,..... or maybe, all will improve because our neighboring planet is going to look like a full moon. I pray only good will be the result to the coming closest of Mars.
I am reading this and seeing a bunch of intellects that are missing some obvious answers. First off you talk about technology but mankind is suppressing technology as we speak that could change our entire climate to normal again. Fossil fuels are out! Get them out of your minds. Creating Genetic creatures that make fossil fuels is out also. Creating anything genetic that breaks down anything is dangerous if let lose into our world. The answer is everywhere. Water! 2 parts Hydrogen and 1 part Oxygen and when burned makes water again. The technology is already here. Browns Gas, Yule, Denny Klein, HHO, Stanley Meyer's WFC, Hydroxy, you name it. Stanley Meyer burned any source of water, even snow. They break it up on demand. The suppression is in the media itself. They say that supplementing fuel with HHO does not work. That is a lie. People are going ahead of the governments and big industries and building units based on Stanley Meyer's Water Fuel Cell which is nothing more than a water capacitor. He was assassinated. It is out on the open net now and everyone is sharing their progress with this and not staying isolated as he was at the time. The governments are not able to stop this technology movement. It is already happening and it will alter the environment when it goes mainstream. It cleans the air as it burns. Anything you people do will be a failure as mankind is imperfect. So get it out of your minds and work on clean air technology. As this HHO is made and used on demand out of water you clean the air while you use it. Even jet engines can be converted to run on this stuff. Airplane crashes will not explode when they have no fuel tanks and only carry water for fuel. You guys all need to check out the technology that is being suppressed and work on advertising and pushing it rather than getting government funding to alter the world with your ideas and possibly destroy it. Think about it? If a Ice age did come with this HHO technology we could warm our homes with the snow and run generators with the snow. We could build artificial lighting and still grow crops with the snow! If global heating comes we can make indoor, safe & cool environments with the water from the ocean or even live under the water and grow our own crops and etc. with water powered generators. There is no other technology that needs to be pushed as hard as this. Get er done!
this passage gives an educative data about how the environment can be managed
properly without causing devastation to its natural property, be it flora or
I would be eager to read more about any subsequent information which may come
under this article