Here’s a link to an extraordinary article by the above title in Philadelphia magazine by John Marchese. It profiles Penn professor of Environmental Science Bob Giegengack, a geologist who’s been studying the topic of climate change for some 50 years. Some excerpts from the article:
Giegengack doesn’t consider global warming to be even one of the top 10 environmental problems we face.
He has described Al Gore’s documentary as “a political statement timed to present him as a presidential candidate in 2008,” telling his students, “Every single one of you knows more about this than Al Gore.”
Gore supporter Giegengack says of Gore’s film, “The glossy production is replete with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, and appeals to public fear as shamelessly as any other political statement that hopes to unite the public behind a particular ideology.”
The Earth has been warming, he says, for about 20,000 years. We’ve only been collecting data on that trend for about 200 years. “For most of Earth history,” he says, “the globe has been warmer than it has been for the last 200 years. It has only rarely been cooler.” He notes that in the past 650,000 years, the Earth’s temperature has gone through regular cycles of rise and fall.
The core samples from the polar ice and ocean floor help show that the Earth’s temperature and the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been in lockstep for tens of thousands of years. Of course, that was long before anybody was burning fossil fuels. (Has he been reading ShopFloor.org?)
Giegengack tells his students they might want to consider that “natural” climatic temperature cycles control carbon dioxide levels, not the other way around. That’s the crux of his argument with Gore’s view of global warming — he says carbon dioxide doesn’t control global temperature, and certainly not in a direct, linear way. This is precisely the point made by our friend and climate expert Bob Carter.
“Sea level is rising,” Giegengack says. But, he explains, it’s been rising ever since warming set in 18,000 years ago. The rate of rise has been pretty slow — only about 400 feet so far. And recently — meaning in the thousands of years — the rate has slowed even more. “At the present rate of sea-level rise,” Giegengack says, “it’s going to take 3,500 years to get up [to the 20 foot level predicted by Gore.]”
“The thing [Gore] dozen’t mention is that there are 2.4 billion people in India and China who have launched a campaign that will increase their energy consumption by a factor of 10. No matter what we do. If we somehow cut our CO2 emissions in half, you wouldn’t be able to measure the difference because of the role played by India and China.”
“There’s all this stuff about saving the planet,” he says. “The Earth is fine. The Earth was fine before we got here, and it’ll be fine long after we’re gone.”
At the end of the day, says Giegengack, “I don’t think we’re going to have a rational discussion of this question in the present environment.” Sadly — and from the looks of things on Capitol Hill these days — the Professor is probably right.