Sunday, March 09, 2008

Procrastinating no more

I don't have a writer's block problem so much as a procrastination problem. I like to avoid unpleasant things, such as not having anything to say when I have a couple of pages to fill. Then I get going, writing off the top of my head (Gram always said that was the fertile part) and finally pull something together. No one is more surprised by what comes out than I am.

This time I started with a discussion I have been having through LJ with about the environment, global warming versus cooling, sunspot numbers, Maunder Minimum and the sun. He's a self professed information junkie and I'm just plain curious. As a non-engineer type ham radio operator I have a basic knowledge of how the sun's radiation affects high frequency, which we use to make the radio work by riding the frequency waves (so to speak), but not much beyond that. I do have a good bit of historical knowledge, but after talking with I knew I needed more information. I was intrigued and in bug hunt mode. For those of you that are just tuning in, bug hunt mode is my term for being in research mode to satisfy my greedy curiosity. Okay, back to the issue after I get another spoonful of peanut butter. Yummy.

The whole global warming issue, as put forth in An Inconvenient Truth (something I've written about before and recently) is that because of the excess of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and the way it keeps in the sun's rays, trapping them in the Earth's atmosphere (like a greenhouse), we are headed for a greenhouse effect. The polar ice caps will melt. Coastal areas will flood. Arable land will turn to desert as the water supply dries up and we will live in the land of Soylent Green where people may become the next item on the menu when plankton sources die from the heat as the seas evaporate. (I always did wonder what would happen to all that water if it evaporates. It has to go somewhere. Even greenhouses trap moisture, which is why you raise the windows to vent things or you end up with a steaming jungle. But that's another topic for another time.) That is the premise that Al Gore sold to the people and to the Nobel prize committee. Turns out the inventor of the Internet might not know as much as he wants the rest of the world to think.

Yes, the movie was awful -- or so I heard -- and it showed polar bears clinging to melting ice floes as the polar ice caps shrink and fall into the sea. Greenhouse gases (CO2) abound in the air. We are polluting ourselves to the edge of extinction where a nuclear war will finish us off as countries battle for the last sources of food and water before turning on their own population for food. Bullshit! Yes, you heard it here. Bullshit! And I don't apologize for what I say. If I say it, I mean it.

There were much higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere during the age of dinosaurs and the world was a hot house, a jungle, a rain forest -- if you will. There were much higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere during the early 17th century at the advent of the mini ice age, about which I have written before, and the levels continued to rise as people burned more coal and wood to keep warm. The levels now aren't quite so lethal. Of course, that doesn't address the issue of polluting our rivers, streams, lakes and ocean or the pollution that is poured into the soil to make crops grow better and keep away the weeds that soaks into the water table.

The inconvenient truth is that we may very well need the CO2 in the atmosphere in order to maintain the airy envelope that surrounds Earth and keeps us from frying up like Venus or turning into a frigid world like Mars. The real interaction between solar radiation and CO2 is not as well understood as scientists -- and Al Gore -- would have us believe, and messing with the balance, even to bring it down, may put Earth on the road to Venusian Hell or Martian Ragnarök.

What some scientists -- not the popular ones screaming the sky is falling -- now know that the sun has been hotter over the past 50 years than it has been in recent memory and that is what has caused the temperatures to rise, the weather to be wildly erratic and the winters in the Midwest to be milder than previously. Since the sun is hotter and much more active, it bombards the Earth with higher levels of radiation that could have turned us to a cinder by now if not for the cushioning effect of CO2. Since December when a new solar cycle began (the sunspots changed direction and polarity), we have had very few sunspots, going for days without any activity, which is probably also responsible for the very cold winter we have had worldwide, the complete opposite of Al Gore's claims. It is doubtful we are headed for another ice age -- yet -- but it is possible, far more possible than a runaway greenhouse effect and cries of "Soylent green is people!" It may be that the sun has been having hot flashes or just a temper tantrum for the past 50 years and will return to more normal operations soon, although the solar scientists (the ones Al Gore doesn't talk or refer to) believe we are in for a very busy period of sunspot activity once this cycle gets cranked up. That means more solar winds headed towards Earth, longer period of Aurora Borealis activity that will be seen nearly to the southern United States, more cosmic radiation bombarding the Earth and a probable increase in skin cancer if we don't have sufficient CO2 to protect us from the effects.

In effect, the inconvenient truth is that we may be doing ourselves more harm than good because we don't have enough experience or knowledge or understanding to know how much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will hurt -- or help -- us. We're like children with a little bit of knowledge: we are dangerous to ourselves and to our planet. As it stands, we are more likely to be faced with another mini -- or full blown -- ice age than we are of becoming food for the masses when we die and are ground up into soylent green, and then the CO2 levels will climb as we burn whatever we can to keep warm. I know what you're thinking, I write too much. You're probably right.

That is all. Disperse.

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