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