GLOBAL CLIMATE in 1984 and NOW
(Investigator 196, 2021 January)
|Accelerating melt-off from glaciers and especially ice
sheets in Antarctica is helping drive sea level rises, threatening
coastal megacities and small island nations... The past decade has been
the hottest on record ... with last year being the second-hottest year,
after 2016. (The Weekend Australian, February 15-16, 2020, p. 6)
In recent years the phrase "climate emergency" has resounded around the
world. Vaughen (2019) writes: "More than 600 local and national
governments have declared climate emergencies since January 2018..."
My concern with this topic started when, as a young person in 1970, I
took time off to give attention to the Bible. Deuteronomy 28:22-24
links adverse climate to people rejecting God. Job 38:22-23 implicates
snow and hail. And Jesus' words "distress among nations confused by the
roaring of the sea and the waves" (Luke 21:25), taken literally,
implied a rise in ocean levels.
A year later I purchased the book Wilderness and Plenty
(1971), authored by English ecologist/conservationist Sir Frank Fraser
Darling (1903-1979), which warned of future sea-level rise due to
atmospheric heating from the build-up of carbon dioxide. This
strengthend the expectation that I got from the Bible. (See: "Sea
Levels and The Bible", Investigator #179)
In 1973 a news report titled "Crazy Weather World-Wide" seemed to give further support and I filed it for future reference.
In 1984 I was studying for a science degree at the University of
Adelaide. Worth 30% of the assessment (of that subject for 1 term) was a research essay which
students could select from a number of offered topics. The lecturer
warned "The climate topic is the most difficult" but, predisposed by
the Bible, it's the topic I chose — titled "Air Pollution and the
Some of the essay's references were groundbreaking and still get cited
by academics. Roger Revelle (1909-1991), Californian oceanographer and
pioneer researcher into human impact on climate, forecast a 3oC rise in average world temperature in the 21st
century. Bert Bolin (1925-2007), Swedish meteorologist, researched the
impact on climate of the world's increasing production and use of
energy. Mikhail Budyko (1920-2001) of Russia authored Heat Balance of the Earth's Surface (1956) and later calculated that a 50% rise in atmospheric CO2 could melt the ice caps.
My essay summarized the science of climate change as it was in the
early 1980s. My conclusion left the verdict open — whether global
temperature would increase, or sea levels rise, was not scientifically
Now, in the 21st century, with thousands of temperature and weather
records being broken, glaciers retreating, Arctic ice-cover shrinking,
extreme weather-events increasing, and international climate
conferences occurring regularly, the conclusion could be different.
Jesus' words "distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea
and the waves'' could become a literal description of global coastal
flooding and nations scrambling to survive.
The following table, based on Wikipedia, compares CO2
(Carbon dioxide) emissions (from burning of fossil fuels and cement
manufacture but not land-use, forestry and shipping) of the 17 top
countries in 2017 with 1990:
|| Emissions in
Millions of Tons 1990
| Emissions in
Millions of Tons 2017
| % of Global
| Emissions Per Capita
in Tons 2017
The Paris Agreement (2015) on greenhouse-gas emissions committed the nations to reduce their CO2 emissions so as to limit global warming to below 2oC.
Some governments have argued that countries with high per capita
of carbon emissions, like Australia and USA, have the primary
responsibility to act. HOWEVER, China emits 29% of the global total
(Table 1), and still increasing.
Australia, which emits only 1.1% of the world total, fears committing
"economic suicide" for no reason if it reduced while China doesn't.
Twelve other countries have even higher per capita rates than Australia
but lower total emissions (except Saudi Arabia & Canada) and can
likewise make no global
Australia could reduce its emissions by closing its gas industry. But
China imports Australian gas and would probably compensate by importing
more coal (it already has 1000 of the worlds 2500 coal-fired power
stations). China's 29% of world carbon emissions would then rise even
This conflict of interests is aggravated by third world nations wanting
to industrialize, thereby needing to raise their carbon emissions,
arguing in effect — "That's how the rich nations got rich; why
therefore should we stay poor?"
It's a conundrum.
Increase in average global air temperature has been mitigated by
absorption of heat into the oceans. Pearce (2005) reported: "The oceans
eventually absorb 84 per cent of the Earth's extra heat." Whipple
(2019) writes: "93 per cent of all heating occurs in the oceans,
unnoticed by traditional meteorological stations..."
Eventually warming oceans should result in increased ice melt in
Greenland and Antarctica, and perhaps dislodge ice-shelves by warming
In 2019 The Weekend Australian reported:
July was the hottest month across the globe ever measured... (August 7, 2019, p. 9)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2020 found that:
The world’s five
warmest years have all occurred since 2015 with nine of the 10 warmest
years occurring since 2005, according to scientists from NOAA's
National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)...
Ocean heat content, which describes the amount of heat
stored in the upper-levels of the ocean, was the highest ever recorded.
High ocean-heat content can contribute to sea-level rise...
New Scientist reported:
...the Himalayas have lost a quarter of their ice mass since 1975. (Vaughen 2019)
Children born now could live to see the oceans rise well over a metre by 2100..." (Le Page 2019)
More of Greenland's ice
was lost in 2019 than in any year since measurements began... The loss
of all Greenland's ice would add at least 6 metres to global sea
level... (Le Page 2020)
My 1984 science essay, "Air Pollution and the World's Climate" is now available to Investigator Magazine.
Bolin, B. The Impact Of Production And Use Of Energy On The Global Climate!
Budyko, M. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Budyko.htm
Le Page, M. Greenland lost a record amount in 2019, New Scientist, 29 August, 2020, p. 18
Le Page, M. Sea levels look set for even higher rise, New Scientist, 16 February, 2019, p. 12
Pearce, F. Climate evidence finds us guilty as charged, New Scientist, 11 June, 2005, p. 17
Revelle, R. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Revelle
Van Onselen, P. No Denying, Too Small To Matter Doesn't Cut It, The Weekend Australian, December 21-22, 2019, p. 18
Vaughen, A. Ice melt in world's highest mountain range speeds up, New Scientist, 29 June, 2019, p. 16
Vaughen, A. The time for talk is over, New Scientist, 29 June, 2019, p. 23
Whipple, T. Scientists alarmed at speed of ocean warming, The Weekend Australian, January 12-13, 2019, p. 13
COMMENT ON PART II of
"AIR POLLUTION AND THE WORLD'S CLIMATE"
(Investigator 197, 2021 March)
"In the United States, almost 40% of the population lives in relatively high population-density coastal areas,
where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms." (Lindsey 2016)
CHLORINATED COMPOUNDS AND OZONE (O3)
Part II of my science essay, Air Pollution and the World's Climate (1984), begins with "Chlorinated Compounds and Ozone (O3)", examining the destruction of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere.
That particular air pollution problem got mitigated in 1987 when 56
countries signed the Montreal Protocol to cut production of
CFCs were used as refrigerator and air-conditioner gases and spray-can propellants. James W. Elkins explains:
(CFCs) are nontoxic, non-flammable chemicals containing atoms of
carbon, chlorine, and fluorine. They are used in the manufacture of
aerosol sprays, blowing agents for foams and packing materials, as
solvents, and as refrigerants. CFCs are classified as halocarbons, a
class of compounds that contain atoms of carbon and halogen atoms.
Individual CFC molecules are labeled with a unique numbering system.
For example, the CFC number of 11 indicates the number of atoms of
carbon, hydrogen, fluorine, and chlorine (e.g. CCl3F as CFC-11).
In 1974 scientists F.S. Rowland (1927-2012) and M.J. Molina
(1943-2020, reported that chlorine (Cl), which is produced when CFCs
interact with UV light, progressively destroys ozone in the upper
CCl2F2 + UV Light —> CCIF2 + Cl
CCl3F + UV Light —> CCl2F + Cl
Earth’s ozone layer blocks the sun’s ultraviolet rays, therefore its
depletion would escalate skin cancer rates and eventually decimate
plants including agriculture. Further research found that global
climate would also be affected.
The U.S. pushed for international controls on CFCs but this was
interrupted by the election of Ronald Reagan as president. Linden
(1993) in Time magazine reported:
Protection Agency was taken over by a pro-business team that did not
like regulations and distrusted international agreements. Anne Burford,
who headed the EPA in the early 1980s, regarded ozone depletion as an
unsubstantiated scare story. Many demoralized professionals resigned,
leaving the agency with few people who had any background on the issue.
Du Pont [the American company that invented CFCs and
dominated global production] which poured $15 million into developing
substitutes during the late 1970s, all but halted its research…
Du Pont challenged Rowland at every turn in the 1970s, and he believes
the company's aggressiveness sent a chilling message to other
scientists in the field.
In 1985 Joseph C. Farman (1930-2013) and colleagues announced in Nature journal that stratospheric ozone over Antarctica had declined 40%. This reduction became known as the Antarctic ozone hole.
At this stage the political world acted and agreed in the Montreal Protocol to reduce the use of CFCs.
The ozone hole is now steadily getting smaller.
A threat that could have destroyed civilization was solved by scientific research and appropriate political response!
NITROGEN AND OZONE
Section 7 of my essay titled "Nitrogen and Ozone" is heavy on chemistry
but inconclusive on whether ozone-nitrogen interactions will have a net
cooling effect by destruction of ozone, or net warming effect by build-up of nitrous oxide (N2O). The latter now seems to be the case:
The application on farms of synthetic fertilizers such as ammonium
nitrate (the stuff that exploded in Beirut in 2020 and damaged entire
suburbs) contributes to global warming. When applied to crops synthetic
fertilisers generate, via various chemical reactions, the greenhouse
gas nitrous oxide (N2O) which is more than 200 times as effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide!
The overall climatic effect of changes in cloud-cover, which Sections 5
and 11 of the 1984 essay comment on, is still ambiguous. One recent
finding is that if CO2 concentration were to reach 1200
parts per million, stratocumulus clouds which shield planet Earth over
subtropical oceans would break up and disperse. This could raise global
temperature 8oC! (Schneider et al 2019)
Warmer oceans could potentially melt Antarctic and Greenland
ice-shelves from below. Although the Antarctic icecap may initially
expand (due to extra rainfall because global warming increases
evaporation rates) and therefore reflect more heat back to Space, this
could be counteracted if warmer water melts coastal ice from
Lindsey (2016) writes: "The pace of global sea level rise almost
doubled from 1.7 mm/year throughout most of the twentieth century to
3.2 mm/year since 1993."
Lawton (2019) writes: "1.5oC warming is projected to cause
between 26 and 77 centimetres sea level rise relative to 2005… That
puts at least 136 port megacities at risk of inundation."
Such events would literally match Jesus' words "distress among nations
confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves." If for any reason
the future sees a huge increase in the number and size of tsunamis that
too could fulfil Jesus' words. The ocean-elevation interpretation
now has scientific explanation and support, but both
interpretations could be valid.
If the ambiguities in how Antarctica and Greenland will respond to
global warming turn out to be worst-case scenarios, hundreds of cities
and their inhabitants and vast areas of agricutural land will be in
The essay twice suggests that large-scale tree planting could counteract CO2 build-up.
Swanson (2019) reports that Earth has about 3 trillion (3000 billion)
trees. Of the 10 billion tons of carbon humans put into the air
annually a quarter is absorbed by oceans and half is removed by means
unknown but probably by plant-life, especially trees, and: "Earth could
support enough additional trees to cut atmospheric carbon levels by 25
However, "Worldwide, some 15 billion trees are felled each year."
Much of the world's tree-destruction occurs in the Amazon rainforest. A
decade or two ago we heard reports of deliberately-lit fires, during
the dry season, so vast that smoke darkened the Sun above cities a
thousand kilometres away, and of conservationists who campaigned to
stop the fires getting murdered. The destruction still goes on:
Brazilian space agency
INPE identifies 8426 sq km of Amazon rainforest lost to deforestation
last year, using its DETER monitoring program, which analyses satellite
images. (Sunday Mail, January 10, 2021, p. 60)
Otto (2011) writes:
Between January 2009 and June 2010 … the energy
industry spent half a billion dollars fighting climate change
legislation. They spent an estimated $73 million more on anti-clean
energy ads. Much of the effort was to cast doubt on the findings of
climate science or impugn scientists' reputations and motives.
Perhaps climate-change deniers should learn from the ozone-destruction
story outlined above and how political action in response to scientific
research probably saved civilization.
Climate-change deniers have proliferated and include policy makers such as former President Trump. Petersen et al (2019 ) in Naturelisted
386 contrarians and 386 "expert scientists" and tracked them
across 100,000 English-language media articles and found that:
"contrarians are featured in 49% more media articles than
scientists". Editors and journalists are giving the contrarians
attention". Petersen writes: "It's time to stop giving these people
visibility, which can be easily spun into false authority."
Others argue it's bad for science to try to silence opposing views. But
what about when false views are the views most aired and promote
inaction that threatens the future wellbeing of 10,000 million people?
The title of a recent book encapsulates what's happening in Australia — The
Carbon Club: How A Network of Influential Climate Skeptics, Politicians
and Business Leaders Fought to Control Australia's Climate Policy (Marian Wilkinson, 2020, Allen & Unwin).
New Scientist reported in 2014:
Just after its hottest
year on record, Australia is once more sweltering in a heatwave that
has engulfed Victoria and South Australia. Heatwaves are becoming
increasingly common, but the country's new government doesn't accept
that this is down to climate change and is doing little...
Some suburbs are planting more greenery to stay cool,
but the federal government is sitting on its hands. "It's reluctant to
do anything because that would mean admitting climate change is a
reality," … (18 January 2014, p. 15)
The 21st century began with a "hiatus" in global warming when atmospheric CO2 continued to increase but warming stopped.
The explanation is, at least in part, that the oceans absorb some of the extra heat. Cheng et al (2019) report:
About 93% of the energy
imbalance accumulates in the ocean as increased ocean heat content
(OHC). The ocean record of this imbalance is much less affected by
internal variability and is thus better suited for detecting and
attributing human influences than more commonly used surface
temperature records. Recent observation-based estimates show rapid
warming of Earth’s oceans over the past few decades…
Although climate model results … have been criticized
during debates about a “hiatus” or “slowdown” of global mean surface
temperature, it is increasingly clear that the pause in surface warming
was at least in part due to the redistribution of heat within the
climate system from Earth surface into the ocean interiors...
The fairly steady rise in OHC shows that the planet is clearly warming…
Australia experienced even greater heat-waves in the summer of
2019/2020 than in 2014 along with unprecedented bushfires, emergency
decrees, fiery destruction of towns, and the evacuation of thousands of
people from threatened areas. Whether global warming contributed is
debated because another factor is the accumulation of dead wood in
forests due to failure to do controlled burns. Other years are seeing
record rainfall, hurricanes and floods because warmer oceans mean
Some influential commentators accept climate-change science but oppose
spending on reducing human carbon emissions, arguing it's not
cost-effective and the nations should instead adapt to warmer weather.
That however depends on which climate-change scenario eventually plays
out. If for example large areas of Earth become too hot to live in, or
huge methane clouds released from Arctic permafrost drift around until
ignited and explode like nuclear bombs, or rising ocean levels displace
several billion people, then only very wealthy people would have the
resources to adapt and live safely.
As climate change progresses there will be increased legal action as a
form of protest or to hold alleged major perpetrators to account. The
legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright reports: "As at November 2020, the
total number of climate change cases filed to date has reached over
1,650... Cases have now been filed in all six continents and in at
least 36 countries…"
THE SITUATION NOW
The latest global warming statistic is that the last seven years,
2014-2020, were the seven warmest. The global climate situation looks
more sinister now than in 1970 when I got the idea of sea-level rise
from the Bible, or than in 1984 when I wrote on "Air Pollution and the
Cheng, L., Abraham, J., Hausfather, Z, and Trenberth, K.E. How fast are the oceans warming? Science, 11 January, 2019, Volume 363, Issue 6423, 128-129
Lawton, G. The new normal, New Scientist, 19 January, 2019, 34-37
Molina, M.J. and Rowland, F.S. Stratospheric sink for chlorofluoromethanes: Chlorine atom-catalyzed destruction of ozone, Nature, 249, pp 810-812, 1974
Farman, J.C., Gardiner, B.G. and Shanklin, J.D. Large losses of total ozone in Antarctica reveal seasonal ClOx/NOx interaction, Nature, Volume 315, 207-210, 1985
Kellogg, W.W. Influences Of Mankind On Climate, Ann. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 1979. 7: 63-92
Linden, E. Ozone Slayers, Time, May 17, 1993, 50-51
Lindsey, R. June 10, 2016 Climate Change: Global Sea Level
Norton Rose Fulbright
Petersen, A.M. et al. Discrepancy in scientific authority and media visibility of climate change scientists and contrarians,
Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 3502 (2019)
Otto, S.L. Special Report Science In America, New Scientist, 29 October, 2011, 38-41
Schneider, T., Kaul, C.M. and Pressel, K.G. Possible climate
transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse
warming, Nature Geoscience, 12, 163-167, 2019
Suddick, E. et al. The role of nitrogen in climate change and the
impacts of nitrogen–climate interactions in the United States: foreword
to thematic issue
Biogeochemistry, volume 114, pages1–10 (2013)
Swanson, C. Seeing the woods, New Scientist, 5 October, 2019, 34-37
Climate Change Denial