There’s an old story about a man who fell off the roof of a New York City skyscraper. As he plunged past the 32nd floor he said to himself, “So far, so good!”
That’s the way many of those who don’t want to believe that global warming is a threat have reacted to the news that for the past 10 years global temperatures have stopped rising and have leveled out.
So far, so good.
Analyses of temperature readings across the world have shown that on average the Earth’s temperature remained constant for the past 10 years. On average. Some of those 10 years have been the hottest ever recorded, while others have been far cooler. Average them all out and the globe’s temperature has remained steady.
Those who maintain that global warming is some sort of hoax instituted by Third World collectivists and promoted by Al Gore are rejoicing. It’s all a fake, they maintain. How could global warming be a threat if we’re not getting any warmer? Why bother to cut back on greenhouse-gas emissions?
Not so fast, warn the climatologists. Don’t break out the Champagne just yet. There have been plenty of instances over the past several hundred years when global temperatures leveled out for 10 years or so. Then they began to rise — or fall — again.
The past 10 years are more likely merely a respite, a hesitation in the world’s climate change. Incoming energy from the sun tapered off a bit. Instead of temperatures falling below normal, however, they merely held steady. When the sun starts beaming out energy at its normal rate, the climatologists maintain, global temperatures will start rising again.
In fact, the coming rise might be worse than ever, because we are still pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. When the sun returns to normal, the levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere will be higher than ever, they will absorb more radiation than before, and temperatures may climb more steeply.
The major source of the Earth’s warmth is the energy our planet receives from sunlight. But over the past century or so, human activities have become a powerful second source. Our factories and automobiles, our chimneys and tailpipes are pumping enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to make a measurable impact on global climate.
Nonsense, say the deniers. It’s all a fable invented by people who hate America and want to drive us into bankruptcy.
Frankly, I hope that the deniers are right. I hope that global warming is an illusion and that the climate will not change noticeably. I like our climate. I like living by the beach. I don’t want sea levels to rise or mammoth tropical storms to destroy my home.
But wishing doesn’t make it so. In fact, the Catlin Arctic Survey group just reported they expect the Arctic Ocean will be completely free of ice during the summer 10 years from now.
The hoped-for demise of global warming may be nothing more than a delay of the inevitable. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of global warming’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
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Speaking of hoaxes, there’s a widespread rumble through the blogging world and elsewhere that the world will end in the year 2012.
This notion is based on the idea that the ancient calendar of the Mayans ends in 2012, with predictions of terrible disaster. The Mayans were excellent astronomers and carried out their calendar calculations to our year of A.D. 2012. That’s where they stopped.
The rumor is that they stopped because they somehow knew that the world would end at that point. Three years from now.
According to astronomer David Morrison, it’s all hooey. An expert on solar-system dynamics, Morrison says there’s nothing on our horizon that forebodes disaster. No giant meteor will impact Earth in 2012. No drastic change in the Earth’s spin or the sun’s energy output.
What Morrison did find is that the producers of a movie titled “2012” have opened several disaster-spewing Web sites, probably to hype their movie, which will premier this month.
Unlike climate change, this impending disaster really is a hoax.
Naples resident Ben Bova is the author of more than 120 books, including “The Return,” his latest futuristic novel. Bova’s Web site address is www.benbova.com.