Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Weather Is Just Fine

By Wendell Krossa

There has been a slight warming (0.6 degrees Celsius) over the past century which is part of the natural rebound from the unnatural cold of the Little Ice Age of approximately 1350 AD to 1850 AD. We hope the trend toward a warmer world will continue but unfortunately the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDA) has shifted back to its cooling phase. These phases last approximately 20 to 30 years. A previous shift to a warming phase helps explain the warmer temperatures that we had from about 1975 to 1995.

Also, solar cycle 24 has not yet produced any sunspot activity and this further explains the cooler temperatures that we have been experiencing since the turn of the millennium. This could mean cooler temperatures for some decades to come but such is the natural variation in a climate system that is influenced most prominently by such things as the PDA and solar cycles. The best we can do in light of such natural variation is to adjust.

Over the past century and a half there has been a rise of about 100 ppm in CO2 levels in the atmosphere (from 280 to 380). This rise has resulted in a healthier amount of CO2 in the atmosphere which has led to increased plant growth (a greener world). More plant mass on earth has meant more food for animal populations which have subsequently increased. It has also meant more crop growth for humans and this has helped in feeding the increased human population.

Unfortunately, the small human addition to CO2 in the atmosphere has not helped to further warm the earth very much, if at all. There has still not been a scientifically confirmed linkage of CO2 levels with warming. And CO2 levels are still low compared to past history and have been exceptionally low over the years of the Ice Ages. Our atmosphere continues to be “CO2 impoverished”.

Perhaps we could encourage governments to pay people to produce more CO2 emissions. Or find a way to properly value CO2 in the market (I’m just kidding). But it is not a negative externality that needs some market mechanism to price its supposedly damaging costs.

The best way to prepare for whatever weather we will experience in the future is to encourage economic growth and development across the world. We can do this best by strengthening the fundamental institutions that have produced such growth and development in the past. These would include the most vital of all elements- individual freedom and individual rights such as private property rights. The critical counterpart to individual freedom and rights is to limit the greatest threat to such rights which is state power and intervention (growing government). The growth of government has inevitably resulted in the decline of economic growth and development. The history of the past few centuries has taught us clearly that trusting the spontaneous activity of our citizens is the safest way to promote freedom and growth. Freeing our citizens encourages them to express their natural creativity which then results in great explosions of technological innovation and progress.

Economic growth and development is also the best way to ‘save’ our environment. Such growth and development leads to meeting the basic needs of people. Once their basic needs are met and they have the money to do so, people then naturally turn to improving their environments as they are natural environmentalists at heart and value clean and enhanced surroundings.

So this is your latest weather report. Relax and enjoy the weather as for the most part it will continue its natural variation due to factors beyond human influence. Over the past we have learned to adjust to such natural variations and even adapt to the extreme weather events. The result has been less loss of life, especially in the more economically developed regions.

The future looks promising.

Wendell Krossa wkrossa@shaw.ca

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