Jul 15, 2009

Global Temperatures Are Not Our Plaything

When the media reported that the leaders of the G8 had recently agreed to restrict global temperature increases, my first reaction was derision. I changed my Facebook status message to read:

1920s & 30s temps were warm. 1970s temps were cool. The 80s & 90s warmed again. Now the G8 thinks it can dictate climate within 2 degrees. Good luck with that.

The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US may well be the most powerful people on the planet. But they have as much chance of controlling global temperatures as does my rosebush.

That they would even imagine this to be possible is an indication of how bizarre the global warming discussion has gotten. Even our brightest lights have been reduced to talking gibberish.

Despite our highly educated scholars, our research facilities, and our impressive technology, where Mother Nature is concerned, we're mostly out of our depth.

I invite anyone who thinks we have the ability to control the entire climate system to consider volcanoes. Pick a volcano, any volcano, in any corner of the world. Now reflect on the fact that we don't have the ability to determine when it will erupt next.

A single volcano is beyond our power to comprehend or predict. When it does blow its top - perhaps in a contained, tourist-attraction manner or perhaps in a tidal wave of lava that steamrollers over flora and fauna, wiping out human communities and lives, it will be beyond our ability to influence.

The forces, deep within the Earth, that will spark its eruption are ancient. For the moment, they remain mysterious. There are too many factors we don't understand, too much information missing from our analyses, for us to imagine that we have any chance of controlling the way a given volcano behaves.

The larger climate system is influenced by the forces that produce earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. It is influenced by the oceans (70 percent of the globe), the jungles, and the atmosphere. Next to the interplay of all of these, a volcano is straightforward.

If we don't stand a chance against a single volcano, how can we even be having a discussion about controlling something infinitely more complex?