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Global Warming and the Alternative Theories

Classic_cumulusMarch 2007 Update: The following text was written in 2004. The second hypothesis has since been eliminated, and both 1 and 3 appear to be taking place. This discussion makes it clear how fast both climate change is advancing and also how rapidly our acceptance of the fact is also developing. The question is how soon will society begin to react and take action?

If we take the view that the increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations since the industrial revolution have created a warming effect on the climate, and disregard the question as to whether the warming is unprecedented or not. Three different possible hypotheses exist, which predict the response of the atmosphere in the near future to the increase in CO2 (Soon at al., 1999):-

  1. The first hypothesis adopted by the IPCC (2001) takes the view that the atmosphere will amplify the effect of CO2, the consequence being a large temperature increase.
  2. Hypothesis 2 predicts the opposite that the atmosphere will respond to counteract the increase in CO2, subsequently resulting in no significant increase in global temperatures (Lindzen, 1994; Spencer and Braswell, 1997).
  3. The third hypothesis that temperature increases will lead to an increase in natural disasters including flooding, storms and drought. (This hypothesis has been grouped together with hypothesis 1 to be what is known known as the “global warming phenomenon”.)

The predictions which have resulted from the logic of the likely combination of 1. and 3. comprise the consensus view, and have led to the belief that it is necessary to dramatically reduce world energy consumption and builds the basis of the Kyoto Protocol (Soon at al., 1999).

Follow the link here to read further discussion of the global warming hypothesis.

Was the 20th Century truly the warmest century?

The IPCC graph of global temperatures shows current temperatures to be the highest, but a number of scientists dispute this. Soon and Baliunas (1993) using studies of tree rings, and other indicators of past climate claimed, that the 20th century is probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium”. This study was used by sceptics including the Bush administration in the argument against capping CO2 emissions in the US. The papers conclusion even made its way into an Environmental Protection Agency report made by the White House. The findings contradict widely cited and highly thought upon research by other scientists (Regalado 2003). Michael E. Mann of the university of Virginia was one of the many climate change experts who criticised the Soon and Baliunas (2003) paper. Dr Mann led a climate change study back in 1998, producing a reconstruction of global temperatures that showed a distinct pattern of temperature, which had stayed level for centuries, then upturned in the last few decades producing a “hockey stick” graph (see fig 2.1).

The study concluded that greenhouse gases were the main factor contributing to climate variability during the 20th century, and that mean annual temperatures were at their highest since at least AD 1400. Natural factors alone cannot explain the anomalous warmth and therefore, anthropogenic climate change must have a significant effect on climate (Mann, Bradley and Hughes 1998). Dr Mann and his colleagues produced a critique of the Soon and Baliunas (2003) paper saying that the claims made were not consistent with the scientific evidence, and that the paper was flawed. The response details a number of additional reconstructions (Mann et al., 1999; Jones et al., 1998; Crowley and Lowery, 2000), that also support the conclusion that late 20th Century temperatures are the highest experienced in the last 1000 years (Mann et al 2003).

Millennial Temperature record

When examining climate change there is a very distinct difference between regional temperature anomalies and hemispheric mean temperature anomalies. Regional weather causes certain areas to cool while others warm, making hemispheric mean temperature a more valid and stable measurement than regional temperatures (Mann et al 2003). Consequently making the Soon and Baliunas (2003) paper inaccurate, which lead people to question whether the paper should have ever been published. It has been reported that after the publishing of the paper in Climate Research the journals editor-in-chief resigned because he was not allowed by the journals owners to publish an editorial in a following issue pointing out the articles flaws. A further revelation was that the American Petroleum Institute partly funded the study, which was then promoted by non-profit organisations that receive support from energy companies e.g. Exxon Mobil Corp. This suggests that there may have been an agenda behind the study, designed to benefit its supporters, possibly using the data to fit in with their existing opinions on anthropogenic climate change.

The problem with the method used for Mann’s “hockey stick” graph (see fig 2.1) is that reliable temperature measurements made using thermometers only go back approximately 150 years. Without this data being available studies have to rely on a collection of structures that respond to temperature, and were around at the time in question. These are known as temperature proxies, and include tree rings (as used by Briffa (2000)), coral reefs and ice cores. The accuracy of this method is a source of much debate by scientists. Critics of the “hockey stick” claim that the method does not represent the full amount of temperature variation that has occurred in the past. The original graph by Mann et al. (1998) does not show the Medieval Warm Period or the subsequent Little Ice Age. Supporters of the hockey stick graph have argued that both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age were not global phenomena, therefore do not show up in global temperature data. The debate has lead to a further temperature reconstruction of the northern hemisphere to be produced, which shows both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Ages clearly (see fig 2.2).

This reconstruction like Mann et al’s (1999) shows a steady increase in temperature during the 20th century but indicates that the warming started earlier in 1800. From this version of the temperature proxies it appears that temperatures were as warm 1000 years ago as they are today. Also that warming has occurred at a similar rate in the past, as it appears to be doing so in the present e.g. from 900 to 1000 (Esper et al., 2002). This study suggests that the temperature rise being experienced in the 20th century may not be that unusual, and may have natural causes rather than an anthropogenic forcing.

However, the Esper at al (2002) study itself was criticised by some scientists saying the area where tree ring data was collected only consisted of half the northern hemisphere, which would make the averages calculated inaccurate, and not a true representation of the northern hemisphere as a whole. The region covered by the study is known as the extratropical region, and has higher variation of temperature compared to the tropical region of the northern hemisphere. Data collected by Mann et al. (1999) covers the entire northern hemisphere so is likely to show less variation, but be more accurate. There is the additional problem of using tree rings as temperature proxies. Trees are more likely to reflect the summer temperatures than the winter temperatures experienced that year, possibly making them inaccurate when determining annual temperature ( ).

2002 2nd Warmest Year – More Hadley Centre, plus NZ & Australia Thermal Graphs here.


During the last century, however, the climate has been changing more rapidly.

Sea level has risen about four to ten inches in the last century.

Increases in global temperatures over the last century correspond with increased industrialization.

Is Climate Change happening?

The IPCC synthesis report 2001, shows that the earth warmed between 1900 and 1940, then subsequently cooled between 1941 and 1965, but surface temperatures have been warming ever since (Fig 1.0). Data from millions of thermometer measurements taken from all over the world from as far back as 1860, allow calculation of average surface air temperatures. This data is believed to be the most useful when describing the state of the global climate. It can be seen that 1998 is the warmest year on record, with the ten warmest all occurring since 1990. Records show that global temperature has risen by approximately 0.6°C since the beginning of the 20th century, and 0.4°C of this warming has occurred since the 1970s (UKCIP, 2002). This indicates that global warming is occurring. However, many scientists are sceptical, and the issue is subject to debate on whether surface temperatures are rising or not.

graph showing global temperatures rising

Global- Average Surface Air Temperatures

The sceptics can be divided into two groups. Those that do not believe the climate is warming, and those who have the opinion that global temperatures are rising, but the observed increase is not anthropogenic. The latter argue that the rising temperatures are due to natural variation in climate as the world emerges from a mini-ice age (Kuo, Lindberg, and Thornson, 1990). They make the point that atmospheric concentration of CO2 has widely varied over time, the highest estimates being over twenty times higher than at present, and the lowest at approximately 18th-Century levels (Berner, 1997).

The two sceptical views are discussed – click on the links below:-

the climate is not warming
increase is not anthropogenic.
The UK Government accepts Climate Change: Read Tony Blair’s 2004 speech.

January 2006:
More than 80% civil engineers are now not only convinced that Climate Change is taking place: They also claim to be worried about it. More..

A Personal Viewpoint on Climate Change

Climate change glacier viewClimate Change – What Is It?

By Rick Chappo

Climate change is an amazingly simple phrase for such a complex subject. Following, we have a go at defining climate change in today’s terms.

In the current day lexicon of scientists, climate modification isn’t really a term of use anymore. The reason for this is that we have come to understand that the effect of the changes we make to our environment will increase the temperature in many locations on the planet, but will also cool a few places. In light of this, the thing you know of as climate modification is actually referred to as global climate change. Over all, however, the world is definitely warming.

We need a simple definition for climate change in relation to the warming of the planet, one that gets the gist without excluding the simplicities. The simplest and most accurate definition is that climate change is the effect greenhouse gases have on the earth’s climate. Greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to, carbon dioxide and methane. While this sounds like a simple definition, there are a couple of key things to realize.

First, climate change is both a natural phenomena and one created by man. Put another way, greenhouse gases are a natural part of the biosphere and would exist if man did not. Indeed, they are a critical component to the existence of life on this planet. If greenhouse gases didn’t exist, the temperature on planet earth would average zero degrees! Naturally occurring gases, however, keep the temperature at a much more livable 59 degrees.

So, if climate change occurs naturally, what is the big panic about? The problem we are facing is the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases act as thermal blankets for the atmosphere. The more gas in the atmosphere, the thicker the blanket and the less heat escapes. Over the last 80 years, we have been pumping massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the sky. At the same time, we have been reducing forestation around the planet, the primary plant collection that sucks greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. This double whammy is starting to show negative results, the increased heating of our world.

The ultimate question with climate alteration is what will happen as the planet heats up. We are already seeing signs with the retreat of the glaciers. Glacier National Park, for instance, is going to have to be renamed since it has already lost 65 percent of all of its glaciers! While the exact end result of these environmental changes is not clear, we can expect major climatic changes over the next 80 years.

About the Author:

Rick Chapo is with – a directory of solar energy companies. Visit to read more solar power articles.


What is climate change?

Climate change can be defined as “statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period (Houghton et al, 2001)”. It is extremely important to define what can be labelled as climate change, and what cannot.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCC) states that climate change is variation in the climate, which can be attributed to human activity, either directly or indirectly, and stresses that it must be in addition to natural variation being experienced during the same time period. It is essential to distinguish between “climate change” due to human activities and “climate variability” due to natural causes. Only when we have a comprehensive understanding of these factors can we understand what effect humans are having on the composition of the atmosphere (UNFCC, 2002).Rows of lettuce growing in a field Halsall Lancashire02

The potential problem of global warming was officially recognised in 1988 when the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC was created with the intention of being an objective assessor of peer reviewed published scientific literature. It’s fundamental objective to provide a comprehensive, and impartial view, regarding the science and potential impact of climate change due to anthropogenic factors, then to use this information to look at options for potential adaptation and mitigation. This lead to the creation of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, a result of the first IPCC Assessment Report, which was completed in 1990.

The second IPCC assessment was published in 1995, and provided the basis for the Kyoto Agreement, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A third IPCC report was completed in 2001, providing a comprehensive source of reference, which has been used internationally as the basis for the science and impact of global climate change. A fourth report is planned for 2007, and its scope and outline are currently under discussion (

Climate change is one of the most serious environmental challenges facing the world.  Call for action. The need to address climate change is urgent.

Climate change is a change or variability in the average weather of a region. It may be a positive change in some locations which may enhance the productivity of a region, however, the rapidity of the change will cause major disruption and there will be many more losers than gains if climate change advances as predicted and as initial indications are now beginning to show.

To become fully engaged with the issue of climate change, it is important to understand the science. Understanding how the circulation of the Earth’s carbon atoms drives climate change. Climate change is caused by the persistent build-up of greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere. Climate change will also alter the availability of freshwater and potable water resources.  There are a handful of other, mainly industrial, chemicals that also contribute to climate change.  The scientific opinion on climate change at the moment is that ‘the warming that has occurred in the past 50 years can be directly attributed to anthropogenic emissions.

Many people confuse the hole in the ozone layer with climate change. In fact, the hole in the ozone layer, which is now beginning to mend itself due to the efforts, and agreements, made worldwide for industry to limit and reduce ozone depleting emissions, has nothing to do with climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol is the international plan to reduce climate change pollution. But climate change is about much more than perceptions of scientific certainty or uncertainty.

For example, water vapor is not typically considered part of the climate change problem, although larger amounts of water vapour are known to be present now than in the past, and this will also have an effect on climate.

Climate change is a change in the ‘average weather’ that a given region experiences, and average weather changes will be unevenly dispersed around the world, with some places experiencing much greater rises than others. Climate change in the Arctic will be greater than in most other regions, and is expected to move the permafrost boundary north by several hundred kilometers.

The issue of climate change is closely linked to other environmental issues, and to the challenge of sustainable development itself.  The impacts of climate change once thought of as unimaginable and farfetched are now occurring.  Climate change, sometimes called “global warming”, is the most serious and most complex environmental issue ever to confront the international community.

Climate change isn’t a problem for the future, it’s affecting people around the world today.  A vast amount of research has been done on climate change, its causes and implications.  Many positive feedbacks also exist where the effects of climate change accelerate global warming.  However, developing countries in particular are becoming more and more concerned about how climate change will affect them, and they do not possess the wealth to protect their populations from the effects of natural disasters such as flooding.

Read on throughout this web site for more information on climate change, and how you can be part of the solution.

How Polluting is Flying – How Polluting is your flight?

Revealed: The real cost of air travel

It might be cheap, but it’s going to cost the earth. The cut-price air ticket is fuelling a boom that will make controlling global warming impossible. (Adapted from the Independent Newspaper (London) front page leader on Sunday 28 May 2005.

Here are some examples of flights giving the environmental cost per passenger of a return flight from London to:

Miles: 288
Fuel: 48kg
Greenhouse gases: 452 kgCO2
Travelling by car & ferry is 13 times more considerate to the ozone layer, than going by plane.
Miles: 217
Fuel: 36kg
Greenhouse gases: 341 kgCO2
The greenhouse gas emitted paer passenger is equivalent to the weight of 179 Edam cheeses.
Miles: 714
Fuel: 120kg
Greenhouse gases: 1,122 kgCO2
The amount of carbon emitted is equivalent to the weight of 4 reindeer, and would be cut by 85% through travelling by car.
Miles: 636
Fuel: 107kg
Greenhouse gases: 1,000kgCO2
A train would have to travel from London to Madras and back before polluting the air as much as a 747’s return flight to Prague.
Miles: 705
Fuel: 119kg
Greenhouse gases: 1,109kgCO2
A trip by rail would emit 95% less greenhouse gas.
Miles: 212
Fuel: 35kg
Greenhouse gases: 333 kgCO2Catching Eurostar would release 40 times less global-warming pollutants.
Miles: 891
Fuel: 150kg
Greenhouse gases: 1,410kgCO2
A tourist could drive around on a scooter non-stop for more than 6 months and still produce fewer emissions.
Miles: 1,485
Fuel: 250kg
Greenhouse gases: 2,336kgCO2
After 1 trip a passenger would have to go without heating, cooking, lighting and mechnised transport for 2 years & 9 months to make up for their impact on the environment.
New York
Miles: 3,455
Fuel: 414kg
Greenhouse gases: 3,,863kgCO2
A visitor would have to take 700 two-hour bus tours of the Big Apple to emit the same amount of CO2 as on their flight.
Miles: 10,557
Fuel: 1196kg
Greenhouse gases:
The carbon emitted per passenger is equivalent to a mini driving around the world 640 times or the weight of four Indian elephants.
jet airplane 4 Assumptions:
Based upon 80% occupancy of a Jumbo Jet DC 747. All greenhouse gases expressed as warming equivalent of CO2.
Source: Air Travel Calculator and United Nations Environment Programme.


You can also calculate the CO2 emissions generated by your flight here.