I think it is kind of amusing that there is a large group of people who question the science of global warming (climate change secondary to man’s burning hydrocarbons). So I thought the best way to illustrate the craziness of the deniers would be to ask, how do you know oxygen exists? Almost all of us had some sort of biology and chemistry in high school. We did some sort of experiment and hopefully did not blow up the lab. I think that most of us remember the experiment that we did using a technique called electrolysis. We took water and passed an electric current through. Hydrogen went into one tube and oxygen into the other. But, how do we know that was oxygen? We’ve been told, over and over, that oxygen makes up 21% of our atmosphere. But you can’t see oxygen. You cannot taste it. (More about oxygen here.) How we know? Well, it is based on the molecular theory. Molecular theory? It’s a theory, not a proven fact.
This is the same line of questioning that the deniers are using. Yet, the same scientific methods that convinced us that oxygen exists have been used to prove climate change secondary to man’s burning of fossil fuels.
Climate change. Conservatives have taken this term and run with it. They played on the fact that most Americans know a little bit of science, but not much. Most of us remember that there were many ice ages. The earth warmed iand the ice receded. The earth cooled down and the ice proceeded over the large continents. So, every time a scientist mentions climate change, conservatives point to this natural cycle. They then ask, “how do we know that the warming trend that we’re seeing now is not part of this natural cycle?” Before I get to this answer, let me add one other thing. One of the final arguments that deniers use is that the world is so big and you and I are pretty small compared to the size of the world. How can we, as God-fearing little human beings, have an impact on this great big world of ours? This is probably the deniers’ weakest and simplest arguments. There are multiple ways to refute this argument. Let me just say that currently scientists have tested the air in California and have detected pollutants that were generated, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in China. Therefore, what happens in one part of the world can have an impact on people thousands of miles away.
How can climatologists point to some of the events that are happening now as evidence of climate change secondary to man’s burning fossil fuels? Well, thankfully, I don’t have to come up with an experiment off the top of my head. Smart people, scientists, have done this for us. There are a few places in the world that don’t change all that much. As a matter fact, they haven’t changed for thousands of years. One place would be Antarctica the other would be Greenland. In these two places, it gets extremely cold. The ice in some places is several miles thick. NASA explains it like this:
Throughout each year, layers of snow fall over the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Each layer of snow is different in chemistry and texture, summer snow differing from winter snow. Summer brings 24 hours of sunlight to the polar regions, and the top layer of the snow changes in texture—not melting exactly, but changing enough to be different from the snow it covers. The season turns cold and dark again, and more snow falls, forming the next layers of snow. Each layer gives scientists a treasure trove of information about the climate each year. Like marine sediment cores, an ice core provides a vertical timeline of past climates stored in ice sheets and mountain glaciers.
So, by drilling into the ice, we can go back in time and see what the environment
was like. What was the composition of the ice 100 years ago… or a thousand years ago? How much methane or carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere? Whatever was in the atmosphere should be trapped in the ice. Scientists have been able to look back over 420,000 years. (Please click on the picture for a larger version.)
Notice how at the end of the graph (the right side) CO2 levels are higher than at any time during the measuring period. This seems to correlate very nicely with the industrial age, which started approximately 150 years ago. Below is another graph looking at temperature variation and carbon dioxide concentration. This graph covers only 18,000 years. Again, towards the end of the graph, on the right, you can see the abrupt increase
in carbon dioxide.
This data makes a compelling argument that the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere is a new phenomenon. CO2 has not accumulated at this high a level over the last 420,000 years. This is a compelling argument to support the fact that man is having a definite impact on the world around us and that climate change second to man’s burning fossils is really happening. Currently, the leading explanation for this accumulation is the beginning of the industrial age and the burning of carbon fuel at a much higher rate than ever before. The question is whether you are going to believe the scientists or the other guys who are making huge vats of money burning fossil fuels. Is oxygen real or not?