Eggs Cause Chickens to Hatch

Letter in the Santa Barbara News Press, January 24, 2012

A letter from Goleta is titled, “Get ready for the coming ice age.” But there’s no need to rush—the next ice age is at least 20,000 years in the future. If we continue to add CO2 to the atmosphere, the ice is even farther away. Let’s correct some of the letter’s other myths.

“Temperature changes cause CO2 changes.” That’s like saying, "Eggs cause chickens to hatch.” Changes in the earth’s orbit and axial tilt started the warming that ended the last Ice Age. But once started, CO2 amplified the warming. It has to: it’s a fact of physics that more CO2 means higher temperatures.

“Humans cause only 3% of CO2 emissions.” True, but misleading. Before we started burning fossil fuels, the amount of CO2 emitted and the amount absorbed by the oceans and plants were in balance. Beginning about 1800, we began to upset that natural balance and since then CO2 levels have risen by 40% and temperatures by about 1.4°F.

“In 1975, Newsweek said the almost unanimous view of climatologists was that the cooling trend would result in famines that could be catastrophic.” Scientists actually said something quite different. From 1965-1979 they published 68 studies on future global temperatures. Only 10% of them predicted oncoming cooling. Today the percentage is too low to count.

Finally, the writer assures us that this “brief period of warming” will be followed by “an abrupt plunge in temperature.” Will you stake your grandchildren’s future on that blind assertion?