Prominent Geologist Dr. Robert Giegengack dissents – Laments ‘hubris’ of those who ‘believe that we can ‘control’ climate – Denounces ‘semi-religious campaign’


By: - Climate DepotNovember 11, 2019 5:14 PM with 0 comments

Special to Climate Depot

By Geologist Dr. Robert Giegengack – Former chair of Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Giegengack has done field research on six continents, conducted peer-review studies on the geological archives of climate and spent much of his academic career doing field work on the history of climate. Authored 200 peer-reviewed papers. 

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Key Points: 

  • Global Warming/Climate Change began as a scientific discussion.  It has evolved into a polarizing political argument (whenever a scientific understanding depends on a “consensus”, we know it has become political), and from there to a semi-religious campaign advanced by well-intended people who feel, deep in their hearts, that they are “saving the planet”.  Many of those people have chosen to allow their good intentions to override their scientific objectivity. As soon as people who disagree about scientific conclusions start calling each other pejorative names, we know that the discussion has become primarily political, not scientific.
  • I know the work of [MIT’s Dr. Richard] Lindzen, [Climatologist Dr. Roy] Spencer, [Georgia Tech Climatologist Dr. Judith] Curry, [Climatologist Dr. John] Christy, [Princeton Physicist Dr. Will] Happer, etc.I share the skepticism that these people have expressed that anthropogenic CO2 emissions represent the primary driver of the climate change now under way.
  • We know that the climate “warmed”, with a few unexplained reversals, from ~18,000 years ago until ~1830 AD, as a consequence of factors that have controlled climate for all of Phanerozoic time.  It defies the imagination to suggest that those factors abruptly ceased to operate ~300 years ago just to accommodate our need to attribute contemporary climate change to human activity.
  • It beggars the imagination to assert that the natural factors that drove the warming trend from 18,000 years ago to ~300 years ago (with some unexplained temperature reversals) abruptly stopped operating at the end of the Little Ice Age to accommodate our political need to attribute climate variability to human industrial activity.
  • Climate models are instructive, but they lead to scenarios, not predictions. They can be manipulated to yield desired outputs.
  • Removing the groundwater contribution, not directly the consequence of climate change, yields a rate of global sea-level rise that is the slowest in the last 18,000 years.  In prior “interglacial” times, most recently to ~125,000 years ago, global sea level rose to levels higher than the present sea level, and no humans were burning fossil fuels.
  • We run an insidious risk:  When/if a) we learn that anthropogenic CO2 is not the primary driver of contemporary climate change; b) we drastically reduce anthropogenic output of CO2 and the climate does not respond as we have predicted; or c) we enter a period of unexplained cooling, as the mid-20th-century cooling episode, or the Little Ice Age, the credibility of climate scientists will be dashed, and with it the credibility of any scientist who tries to inform environmental policy via rigorous science.

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Dr. Robert Giegengack’s full climate analysis

A PHANEROZOIC PERSPECTIVE ON CLIMATE VARIABILITY

What do we know about the climate change now under way?

  1. Every species on Earth today is still here because its ancestors adapted to climate change in the past.
  2. Climate change is a given, to which human civilization has adapted as long as there have been humans.
  3. That adaptation is now more difficult, since there are now many of us and we occupy fixed pieces of real estate. While humans practiced a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, we “adapted” unconsciously to changes in boundary conditions. The invention of agriculture ~10,000 years ago required us to live at fixed sites while we awaited the harvest. Concentration of human dwelling-places led to villages; as agricultural efficiency improved, some of us were freed up to pursue crafts, services, education, governance, etc. Villages grew into cities, real estate assumed fixed borders, and our capacity to adapt to changing conditions declined. 50% of the human population now lives in cities. We have instituted political/economic institutions (e.g. NFIP, FEMA) that further constrain our capacity to adapt to changing conditions. We are no longer adapting to climate change.

Apparent escalation of damage to human infrastructure by extremes of weather events can be more confidently attributed to growth of exposure of human investments than to climate change, whether anthropogenic or not.

  1. Climate (and other environmental) crises receive more attention in this era of instant global communication than they did in the past.
  2. Human activity is adding CO2 to the atmosphere.
  3. There is no unambiguous evidence that anthropogenic CO2 is contributing to the contemporary climate variability.
  4. Climate models are instructive, but they lead to scenarios, not predictions. They can be manipulated to yield desired outputs.
  5. If anthropogenic CO2 is contributing to climate warming now under way, nothing we are doing, or contemplating doing, can have any measurable effect on that warming. Anthropogenic CO2 now in the atmosphere, and anthropogenic CO2 that has sunk into other Earth-surface reservoirs, will be a feature of the atmosphere for centuries.
  6. It beggars the imagination to assert that the natural factors that drove the warming trend from 18,000 years ago to ~300 years ago (with some unexplained temperature reversals) abruptly stopped operating at the end of the Little Ice Age to accommodate our political need to attribute climate variability to human industrial activity.
  7. The focus on anthropogenic climate change has distracted our attention from many environmental affronts that are more immediate and more threatening than climate change, and can be addressed with technology and resources now at our disposal (list available).
  8. There are many fully defensible reasons (list below) to curtail, and eventually eliminate, our dependence on fossil hydrocarbons for fuel.
  9. We run an insidious risk:  When/if a) we learn that anthropogenic CO2 is not the primary driver of contemporary climate change; b) we drastically reduce anthropogenic output of CO2 and the climate does not respond as we have predicted; or c) we enter a period of unexplained cooling, as the mid-20th-century cooling episode, or the Little Ice Age, the credibility of climate scientists will be dashed, and with it the credibility of any scientist who tries to inform environmental policy via rigorous science.
  10. The end, however laudable, does not justify the means.  We can help developing countries reach the quality of life that we have enjoyed for generations via our disproportionate extraction of natural resources without using fear of catastrophic climate change as a cudgel. We may do that more effectively if we are able to concentrate on urgent environmental issues that we can address with technology and resources now available.

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I know the work of [MIT’s Dr. Richard] Lindzen, [Climatologist Dr. Roy] Spencer, [Georgia Tech Climatologist Dr. Judith] Curry, [Climatologist Dr. John] Christy, [Princeton Physicist Dr. Will] Happer, etc.

I share the skepticism that these people have expressed that anthropogenic CO2 emissions represent the primary driver of the climate change now under way.

A primary body of “evidence” supporting that assertion is the output of the climate models, which we know can be manipulated to generate any desired outcome (I am convinced that the majority of climate modelers are focused, well-intentioned people concerned about the human impact on the natural systems that support us). Output of climate models is not in the same class of “evidence” as direct measurement of climatic/environmental variables.

My perspective on contemporary climate change is a Phanerozoic perspective. Phanerozoic is the term applied to the last 540,000,000 years of Earth history, the time during which preservation of hard parts of organisms (“fossils”), enables us to reconstruct conditions of Earth-surface environments for those periods of time.  Climates of the pre-Phanerozoic past have been more difficult to reconstruct.

From a Phanerozoic perspective, today’s climate is close to the coolest it has been in 540,000,000 years, and the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is close to the lowest it has been.

A major player in the variability of Earth’s climate has been the locations of continents with respect to the poles. Today, the South Pole lies in the middle of a continent, and the North Pole lies in the middle of a restricted ocean with very little thermal exchange with the world ocean. Today, the excess energy delivered to low latitudes is not effectively circulated to the poles, and the thermal difference between the Equator and the Poles is the greatest it has been in Phanerozoic time.  Under those circumstances, slight variation in received solar insolation, driven by the geometry of planetary orbits in the inner Solar System (“Milankovic Cycles”), finds expression in the accumulation of interannual ice on and near the Poles; the increased reflectivity (albedo) of ice-covered continents amplifies the orbital cycle, and the Earth experiences Glacial/Interglacial cycles.  These conditions have prevailed for no more than 15% of Phanerozoic time.

A fanciful proposal:  We might reduce the amplitude of climate change by a) altering the orbit of Mars, so that it stays at 90° to Jupiter and reduces the 100,000-year Milankovic cycle, or b) moving the Antarctic continent off the South Pole. In either case, the amplitude of cyclic climate change would be substantially reduced.  In either case, the Antarctic ice sheet would melt, raising global sea level by ~90 m.

The present warming trend began ~18,000 years ago, when increased Solar radiation reaching Earth (the consequence of the operation of the orbital cycles) led to melting of continental ice sheets and warming of the global ocean. As a direct consequence of these 2 factors, global sea level has risen to the present level from a level 125 m below modern sea level. 125 m in 18,000 years = ~7 mm/yr as an annual average rate of post-glacial global sea-level rise. Monitoring of tide gauges worldwide has shown that modern global sea level is rising at ~2 mm/yr. A trio of satellites launched in 1993 has shown that global sea level is rising now at ~3 mm/yr.  The G.R.A.C.E. satellites, launched in 2002, now show that global sea-level rise has been enhanced by ~1 mm/yr by extraction of ground water in excess of recharge for irrigated agriculture in many parts of the world (since ~1950).

Removing the groundwater contribution, not directly the consequence of climate change, yields a rate of global sea-level rise that is the slowest in the last 18,000 years.  In prior “interglacial” times, most recently to ~125,000 years ago, global sea level rose to levels higher than the present sea level, and no humans were burning fossil fuels.

Students of climate change understand that glacial/interglacial cycles have operated for the last 800,000 years, as documented in the Antarctic ice-core record. Cycles of more or less similar duration characterize the record of deep-sea cores for a much longer time. Less dramatic evidence of low-amplitude climate cycles shows that those cycles have operated at other times in the Phanerozoic when neither Pole was thermally isolated from the global ocean.  

We know that the climate “warmed”, with a few unexplained reversals, from ~18,000 years ago until ~1830 AD, as a consequence of factors that have controlled climate for all of Phanerozoic time.  It defies the imagination to suggest that those factors abruptly ceased to operate ~300 years ago just to accommodate our need to attribute contemporary climate change to human activity.

There is little room to doubt that the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 from a “preindustrial” value of ~280 ppm to ~415 ppm today is the consequence of human transfer of carbon from storage in the rocks as fossil “fuel” to the combustion product CO2 in the atmosphere.  Review of the Phanerozoic history of atmospheric CO2 concentration shows that the average CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has been ~2,000 ppm, and that in early Paleozoic time was as high as 7,000 ppm.  A major global glacial period occurred in Ordovician-Silurian time, when CO2 was ~7,000 ppm and a continent lay over the South Pole (astronomers tell us that solar radiance then was somewhat lower). 

However, the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration from a pre-industrial value of 280 ppm to 415 ppm today is more rapid than any increase in CO2 documented from the Phanerozoic record.

It’s complicated. 

But we know that the “anthropogenic” COnow in the atmosphere will be there for centuries, if not millennia.  Nothing that we are doing, or even contemplating doing, can possibly reduce the atmospheric concentration of CO2 within the time frame of the projections of future warming.

Meanwhile, many environmental threats that are both more threatening and more immediate than climate change and can be addressed with resources and technology now at our disposal are being largely ignored in the political campaign to unite the world behind a climate-change threat.

There are many very good reasons to terminate our use of fossil hydrocarbons as fuel, reasons that do not depend on the influence of CO2 on climate.  They include:

  1. Particulate matter from burning of fossil hydrocarbons is a well-documented public-health threat.
  2. Fossil hydrocarbons represent the essential feedstock for the petrochemicals, nitrogenous fertilizer, and pharmaceuticals industries. We are burning up the future of those industries for short-term gain.
  3. The elaborate, multi-tiered distribution network that transfers hydrocarbon energy resources from their source(s) to factories and generating stations to end users is old, creaky, inefficient, and subject to: a) human and mechanical failure; b) natural disasters (storms, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires, etc.); c) Solar excursions (e.g. CMES, or Coronal Mass Ejections), and d) deliberate sabotage.

We would be more secure with a distributed system of energy-generation that would enable energy users to generate energy close to the end demand.

  1. We are now depleting our reserves of fossil hydrocarbons at a rate one million times faster than they are being replenished.
  2. In any period of time, the Sun delivers to the top of the atmosphere 8,500 times more energy than all of human civilization uses in the same period of time.

We don’t need the threat of anthropogenic climate change to reform our energy system.  The changes we must achieve in energy generation and distribution are all changes we should be pursuing if we knew the globe was cooling.

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Future historians will look back on the ~300-yr era of extraction and combustion of fossil hydrocarbons as a curious, irresponsible anomaly.

Global Warming/Climate Change began as a scientific discussion.  It has evolved into a polarizing political argument (whenever a scientific understanding depends on a “consensus”, we know it has become political), and from there to a semi-religious campaign advanced by well-intended people who feel, deep in their hearts, that they are “saving the planet”.  Many of those people have chosen to allow their good intentions to override their scientific objectivity. As soon as people who disagree about scientific conclusions start calling each other pejorative names, we know that the discussion has become primarily political, not scientific.

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It’s not that the climate-alarmist community is offering “wrong” answers.  They are not asking constructive questions.

A key question:  Given that the climate is changing, and that climate change is a given, whether or not human activity is contributing to it, what can we do about it?  That is the true role for a possible future U.S. federal panel.

Our response to climate change, regardless of the role of anthropogenic CO2, must be adaptation. But we have chosen to focus our attention on mitigation, despite the enormity of the hubris that leads us to believe that we can “control” climate by controlling anthropogenic emission of CO2. And we have enacted in the USA, and in other “developed” countries, legislative strategies to oppose rational adaptation (e.g. NFIP) to benefit politically active players (e.g. the property-casualty insurance industry). 

We will not “stop climate change”.  We will not “reverse global warming”. We will not (we cannot) “save the planet”. Earth (our planet) is fine; it was fine before we emerged as a dominant species, and it will be fine when we have so severely perturbed the natural systems that support us that we join the millions of other species that have become extinct.

Climate change is a “given” to which human society must and will adapt. And while we adapt, with resources and technology now at our disposal, we must curtail, and soon eliminate, the wasteful use of hydrocarbon resources as fuel. 

As we adapt to the inexorable effects of climate change, we must seize the opportunity to use our understanding of the dynamics of the systems that support us to reduce the many affronts to environmental quality that are more immediate, and more threatening to human welfare, than anthropogenic climate change.

These affronts include, but are not limited to: 1) the conversion of large areas of the Earth’s surface from natural vegetation to controlled agriculture and, eventually, industrial monoculture; 2) the rapid growth of the human population (at the expense of many other groups of organisms); 3)  the concentration of that growing human population in urban centers, many of them on the world’s coastlines; 4) the extraction, at rates that exceed rates of natural replenishment, of natural resources essential to support that growing human population; 5) the destruction of the diversity of habitats that support the ecological diversity that provides essential environmental resilience; 6) the generation of waste products from the processes whereby natural resources are converted to products that support the growing human population; 7) the disposal of those waste products into reservoirs of renewable resources such as fresh water, the global ocean, the atmosphere, soils; the list goes on.

We must ensure that our adaptive response to the present climate “emergency” is informed by a growing understanding of the forces that have controlled climate change in the Phanerozoic past, and can be expected to impose some control on future climate.

 

Giegengack: ”CO2 is not the villain that it has been portrayed.”

 

Robert Giegengack, Professor Emeritus of Earth & Environmental Science in the School of Arts and Sciences, joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968.

Giegengack received his BA and PhD in Geology from Yale University (1960, 1968), and his MS in Geology from the University of Colorado (1962).  Giegengack established the undergraduate major in Environmental Studies at Penn in 1972, and was undergraduate advisor for that major and for the Geology major until 2006.  Giegengack has been Faculty Director of the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program. He has also been Director of Penn’s Summer Course in Geologic Field Methods, based at the facility of the Yellowstone-Bighorn Research Association (YBRA) in Red Lodge, MT. 

Giegengack has taught courses in  Environmental Analysis, Paleoclimatology, Environmental Geology, and Field Geology.  He has also developed a series of Academically Based Community-Service courses in urban environmental public health that focus on the hazard of lead-based paint in residential buildings, teenage smoking, and environmental triggers of asthma attacks.

Giegengack studies geologic archives that enable paleoclimatologists to reconstruct the history of environmental change, primarily climate change, during the very long period of time (~4.5 billion years) that preceded acquisition, during the last ~200 years, of the instrumental meteorological record.  That work provides a useful time perspective on environmental processes currently under way, and an evolutionary perspective on the physical, biologic, and social configuration of the modern world. Giegengack has pursued field work on every continent except Australia.

‘Temperature drives CO2’

Ivy League geologist Dr. Robert Giegengack, former chair of Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania,  spoke out in 2007 against fears of rising CO2 impacts promoted by Gore and others. Giegengack noted “for most of Earth’s history, the globe has been warmer than it has been for the last 200 years. It has rarely been cooler.” (LINK) “[Gore] claims that temperature increases solely because more CO2 in the atmosphere traps the sun’s heat. That’s just wrong … It’s a natural interplay. As temperature rises, CO2 rises, and vice versa,” Giegengack explained. “It’s hard for us to say that CO2 drives temperature. It’s easier to say temperature drives CO2,” he added. (LINK) “The driving mechanism is exactly the opposite of what Al Gore claims, both in his film and in that book. It’s the temperature that, through those 650,000 years, controlled the CO2; not the CO2 that controlled the temperature,” he added. (LINK)

In 2014, Giegengack told Climate Depot: “The Earth has experienced very few periods when CO2 was lower than it is today.”

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Ivy League geologist Dr. Robert Giegengack, the chair of Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania,  spoke out against fears of rising CO2 impacts promoted by Gore and others. Giegengack does not even consider global warming among the top ten environmental problems.

“In terms of [global warming’s] capacity to cause the human species harm, I don’t think it makes it into the top 10,” Giegengack said in an interview in the May/June 2007 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. (LINK) Giegengack also noted “for most of Earth’s history, the globe has been warmer than it has been for the last 200 years. It has rarely been cooler.” (LINK) “[Gore] claims that temperature increases solely because more CO2 in the atmosphere traps the sun’s heat. That’s just wrong … It’s a natural interplay. As temperature rises, CO2 rises, and vice versa,” Giegengack explained. “It’s hard for us to say that CO2 drives temperature. It’s easier to say temperature drives CO2,” he added. (LINK) “The driving mechanism is exactly the opposite of what Al Gore claims, both in his film and in that book. It’s the temperature that, through those 650,000 years, controlled the CO2; not the CO2 that controlled the temperature,” he added. (LINK)

“Certain ‘feedback loops’ naturally control the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A warmer temperature drives gases out of solution in the ocean and releases them,” he continued. “[Today, humans] are putting 6.5 billion tons of fossil-fuel carbon into the atmosphere, and only 3.5 billion is staying there, so 3 billion tons is going somewhere else. In the past, when the Earth’s climate rose, CO2 came out of the ocean, the soils, and the permafrost. Today as temperatures rise, excess CO2 is instead going into those and other reservoirs. This reversed flux is very important. Because of this, if we reduced the rate at which we put carbon into the atmosphere, it won’t reduce the concentration in the atmosphere; CO2 is just going to come back out of these reservoirs … If we were to stop manufacturing CO2 tomorrow, we wouldn’t see the effects of that for generations,” Giegengack said.