Whenever consensus starts to appear, I often get worried that we are missing something. And so the debate on global warming appears to be settling on the side of the man-induced factors with increased emissions of carbon dioxide fuelling the greenhouse effect – something I first heard about in the early 80’s at uni and more recently canvassed well by Tim Flannery in the Weather Makers. But are the IPCC and Stern reports right? Are there other factors at play?
Climate change has occurred in the recent past due to non-man induced factors. Times like the Little Ice Age of 300 years ago, the medieval warming of 1000 years ago, the extended drought that many people suspect caused major human societies to fail (Maya in 800AD, Mesopotamia about 1400BC, etc).
We know that changes in solar activity affect global climate – the Maunder Minimum, a period of low solar activity, equates to the Little Ice Age. But other causes such as stated in this article could include impacts of cosmic rays from exploding stars and how they induce increased cloudiness and a cooler world. The recent high amount of solar activity is postulated to have created a magnetic field that reduces the amout of cosmic radiation and results in reduced cloud formation and warmer temperatures.
This is not to deny that greenhouse gases do not play a role. We should invoke the precautionary principle and learn from the climate-induced collapse of previous societies. We are pushing the carrying capacity of the Earth as our population and lifestyle increases and the consequent increased resource demands. Any alteration to our climate patterns, even to the extent of another Little Ice Age would drastically alter human society. We are ill-prepared for any eventuality in future climate shock, be it anthropogenic or not.
And what to do? Systems thinking and involving ordinary people in a dialogue is not a bad start as outlined in a recent article in New Matilda.