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Originally posted by Muaddib
The "warming" we are currently going through is not "unprecedented", in fact the Roman warming period and the Medieval warming periods were much hotter than today, and the geological record shows that they happened in all continents, not just Europe.
While mankind has not been exatly good for the environment, despite the fact that we are getting better, changes in the environment does not cause Climate Change, it is the other way around. Climate Change causes changes in the environment.
The most abundant greenhouse gas, water vapor, retains twice the amount of heat than CO2. Out of the 1% of trace gases which are part of Earth's atmosphere, and both of which CO2 and vater vapor are part of, water vapor makes up for 95% of all trace gases, while mankind contribution on CO2 is 0.28%.
The Roman and Medieval Warm Periods in Spain
Martinez-Cortizas, A., Pontevedra-Pombal, X., Garcia-Rodeja, E., Novoa-Muñoz, J.C. and Shotyk, W. 1999. Mercury in a Spanish peat bog: Archive of climate change and atmospheric metal deposition. Science 284: 939-942.
What was done
Working with a core of 2.5 meters length, which they sampled at intervals of 2 cm in the upper 1 meter and at intervals of 5 cm below that depth, the authors derived a record of mercury deposition in the peat bog of Penido Vello in northwest Spain (43°32'N, 7°34'W) that extends to 4000 radiocarbon years before the present, which they analyzed for a number of parameters. This work revealed, in their words, "that cold climates promoted an enhanced accumulation and the preservation of mercury with low thermal stability, and warm climates were characterized by a lower accumulation and the predominance of mercury with moderate to high thermal stability." Based on these findings and further analyses, they derived a temperature history for the region that they standardized to the mean temperature of the most recent 30 years of their record.
What was learned
The five scientists determined that the mean temperature of the Medieval Warm Period in northwest Spain was 1.5°C warmer than it was over the 30 years leading up to the time of their study, and that the mean temperature of the Roman Warm Period was 2°C warmer. Even more impressive was their finding that several decadal-scale intervals during the Roman Warm Period were more than 2.5°C warmer than the 1968-98 period, while an interval in excess of 80 years during the Medieval Warm Period was more than 3°C warmer.
What it means
Martinez-Cortizas et al. conclude, and rightly so, that "for the past 4000 years ... the Roman Warm Period and the Medieval Warm Period were the most important warming periods."
A team of scientist from Austria and Germany located three stalagmites in the Spannagel Cave located around 2,500 m above sea level at the end of the Tux Valley in Tyrol (Austria) close to the Hintertux glacier. The temperature of the cave stays near freezing and the relative humidity in the cave is always at or near 100%. The stalagmites grew at a rate between 17 and 75 millionths of a meter per year and are nearly 10,000 years old.
The trick to extracting a temperature signal from the stalagmites involves measuring the oxygen 18 isotope (d18O) levels of each small layer from a sample taken from the features in the Spannagel Cave. Given the near perfect conditions in the cave, the d18O levels are determined by the temperature of the drip water at the time the layer was formed. Vollweiler et al. report that the resulting record “may thus be interpreted as a temperature signal with low d18O values corresponding to warmer temperatures and high d18O values corresponding to colder temperatures.”
The results are seen in Figure 1 (below) and the Little Ice Age (LIA) and Medieval Warm Period (MWP) stand out prominently along with other major climate features of the Holocene. The authors note that the record “exhibits substantial oscillations with low d18O values between 7.5 and 5.9 kyr (Holocene Climatic Optimum), 3.8 and 3.6, and 1.2 and 0.7 kyr (MWP) and high d18O between 7.9 and 7.5, 5.9 and 5, 3.5 and 3 kyr, and 600 and 150 yr (LIA).” In discussing warm periods of the past, they note “Between 2.25 and 1.7 kyr, a time known as the Roman Warm Period (RWP), some of the Alpine passes were ice-free also in winter.” Further, they note that the record “has a pronounced peak at 2.2 kyr, synchronous with Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 BC.” The stalagmite is screaming to us that many periods in the past 9,000 years were warmer than present-day conditions!
Geophysical, archaeological, and historical evidence support a solar-output model for climate change
Climate fluctuations have long been noted as being cyclical in nature, and many papers have been published on this topic (1). These fluctuations also can be quite abrupt (2) when climate displays a surprisingly fast transition from one state to another. Possible causes of the cyclic variations and abrupt transitions at different time intervals have been theorized. These theories include internal drivers such as CO2 concentrations (3), ocean temperature and salinity properties (4), as well as volcanism and atmospheric-transmissivity variations (5). External drivers include astronomical factors such as the Milankovitch orbital parameters (6), which recently have been challenged (7), and variations in the Sun's energy output (8-10).
In contrast, warmer climates were accompanied by more rain, longer growing seasons, more crops, and more land to settle on. Civilizations prospered and great human achievements were attained. A similar cycle length of approximately 1,300 years between warm periods extends through the Holocene. Rapid warming about 7,600 years BP (point O, Fig. 2) coincides with the flooding of the Black Sea basin (32) as sea levels rose from the melting of the remnants of the continental glaciers, Antarctic glaciers, and the many alpine glaciers. Nearly 1,300 years later between 6,500 and 6,000 years BP (point P, Fig. 2), Brittany megalithic monuments were built (9). The climate of the British Isles had returned to a favorable level, allowing prosperity to return after the little ice age near 6,900 years BP. The warmer climate and prosperity allowed people time to haul huge blocks of rock many miles to construct great monuments. This civilization eventually was lost during the following little ice age during which the Man-in-Ice was buried under the first alpine glacier of the Dolomites near 5,300 years BP (9). By 5,000 years BP the warmth returned, and the first Egyptian Empire was beginning to flourish, and near 4,500 years BP (point Q, Fig. 2), the Great Pyramids were constructed (9). In India, the Harappa civilization also flourished during these warmer and wetter times only to be eradicated by conditions brought on by extreme drought during the long-lasting cold "4,000 BP Event" (9, 33).
The pre-industrial fantasy
But the Greens insist we must turn our backs on these 'outdated' ideas of economic and industrial progress. If we are to avoid an environmental catastrophe, they say, we must go back to living in harmony with nature. And to do this we must learn from pre-industrial tribal societies in the Third World.
40 per cent of the world's population still uses either wood or dung for fuel instead of electricity. But the indoor pollution from this is deadly, especially for women and children who spend most time in the home. According to the World Health Organisation, 5 million infants die every year in the Third World from respiratory diseases caused by breathing indoor smoke and rural smog.
Basic pollution of this kind kills far more people than all First World environmental problems combined. One and a half billion people in the Third World suffer air quality that is recognised by the World Health Organisation as 'dangerously unsafe', a level of pollution almost unknown in the Western world.
Dr Anil Patel is responsible for the health care of more than 200 villages in Gujarat, in north-west India. The vast majority of medical problems he encounters have been brought on by environmental causes. But the environmental problems he is concerned with come not from modern industry but rather from the lack of modern luxuries such as electricity and clean water.
"Clean water is completely out of question," says Dr Patel. "The water they get is untreated. Most of the time it is contaminated with human faeces and cattle faeces, and the ultimate result is that there are all sorts of water-borne diseases."
Water-borne diseases in the Third World have not been caused by modern industry. On the contrary, the only way to get rid of them is with modern water-cleaning facilities— the kind we take for granted in the West.
In the Third World, 250 million people are infected each year by water-borne diseases, mostly dysentery. Patients suffer severe stomach cramps, chronic diarrhoea and various other disorders such as skin disease, and each year 10 million of them die. The World Health Organisation estimated that in 1996 3.9 million children under the age of five died from diseases communicated by impure drinking water, mostly diarrhoea.
"Death from diarrhoea has been unheard of in the Western world in the past two generations," says Gregg Easterbrook. "That 3.9 million children dead in the developing world last year exceeds all deaths at all ages from all causes in the United States and the European Union combined. And yet we endlessly speak of water purity in the West as an issue."
The idealisation by Greens of life in the Third World is resented by many people there. "I see in this a serious problem of hypocrisy, and if not hypocrisy, a gross insensitivity," says Dr Patel.
According to the World Health Organisation, life expectancy for people in the Third World is 20 years less than our own. In the poorest areas they live 35 years less.