Today is the day for giving thanks and the first thing I want give thanks for is freedom – the concept that we own ourselves and the fruits of our labor – that we have natural innate rights. Thanksgiving is the perfect day to recall why individual liberty and property rights are so important – because that is the REAL story of Thanksgiving.
Since this is the weather blog and I often write about technology and its relation to anthropogenic global warming (AGW), I also give thanks that environmental Armageddon has not occurred as forecast. From the beginning 1989 through the 1990s, environmental headlines and research papers were full of dire predictions of enormous warming and biosphere destruction. THANKfully, the global temperature leveled out for the last decade or so. THANKfully, through the years, global climate models (GCMs) have been refined and will hopefully provide us with more accurate guidance through future years. I have often argued that playing to hysteria and fear (always stating the worst case scenario as the true scenario) will only produce irrational decisions on how to navigate the future. Better to assess the range of possibilities and solutions to energy use and pollution than to run scared for years to come.
With that said, here are a few AGW headlines I have seen cross the wire over the last few days:
Polar bears are threatened with extinction. Biologists think that if polar bears are unable to hunt seals, that they will have to compete with grizzly bears for food. Because of a stronger skull structure in Grizzly bears, they would likely win that fight. It is interesting to note that polar bears very recently descended from brown bears and brown bears co-exist with grizzlies so I think there is hope, even if there is less sea ice in the future.
With warmer ocean temps and warmer water temps in general (in many fresh water lakes as well), one might think sea-ice would decline a bit in the future, but that might not be the case. Large land-based ice sheets are not melting as fast as once thought and have built in self-preservation mechanisms. In addition, due to the non-linear nature of climate changes, there could be outbreaks of extreme cold in the future. Just because the headlines say the earth has a temperature, don’t think that we won’t still have cold winters here in Wisconsin.
Of course some other recent research states there will be more heat (and hurricanes, and rain), but that is not the end of the story. The threshold ocean temperature for the formation of hurricanes is rising, so perhaps there will be less hurricanes in the future. Plus, we don’t quite understand how the main circulation patterns in the ocean will be affected by AGW. Altantic ocean circulation could reverse!
Scientists are still not completely sure how the earth got into long periods of extreme glaciation (the “snowball earth”), so I suppose colder temps and more ice are a possibility for the far future as well.
In a bit of good news, after the recent election it appears that cap-n-trade legislation in the U.S. is unlikely to become law. This is good news because cap-n-trade for limiting carbon emissions is probably the worst possible way to go about it – unnecessarily complex and wide open to manipulation. If something like this is going to become law, then a straight up tax is much more efficient and transparent. I think we should be using other liberty-based incentive-type programs to limit pollution, but if politicians are going to pass some new legislation, then at least they should be going with something simple.
In other good news, humans might be off the hook for the extinction of woolly mammoths. The culprit might be – you guessed it – climate change.
Lastly, I turns out we had 1.5 inches of snow in Wausau yesterday, November 24th, and that means we have 5 winners in our first snowfall contest. The winners for the top 4 prizes (R-store gift cards and car wash coupons) will be drawn on Monday on Wake-Up Wisconsin and then revealed on Tuesday.
Have a happy Thanksgiving! Meteorologist Justin Loew.