What if aliens from another planet invaded us in 2017, and we're not sufficiently prepared? (See first update below.)
More reasonably, what if scientists are right, and increases to long term "heat trapping" atmospheric greenhouse concentrations to levels not seen on earth in at least several million years, leads to severe future climate shifting in response?
Somewhere in between these two "what if" questions, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot's chief business adviser, Maurice Newman, in a piece in the Australian last Thursday (8-14), asked both "what if" the recent warming of earth is due to an increase in solar radiation, and we face a massive risk of major cooling. He also answered, claiming we face just such a threat, for which, he asserted, the world and its people, are ill prepared, and that politicians are ignoring "nature's signs," of, at "their, and our, peril."
So, two things, among many others, we are ill prepared for: Global cooling, and alien invasion.
Global cooling could occur. And the sun could be going into a lower solar activity phase. But it's hard to prepare for major cooling when all the science suggests the opposite; that the impact of atmospheric greenhouse gas changes dwarfs any impact of changes in solar radiation; and that if an extremely unusual and significantly long drop in solar radiation were to occur, it would be a good thing not a bad thing, to help partially offset the increasing impact of already geologically radical increases in long term atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
And it's also hard to prepare for when the basic fact that Newman bases his claim on, is incorrect - solar radiation has slightly gone down the past few decades, and yet the globe, also contrary to Newman's claims, has not cooled. At all:
13 of the 14 warmest years in modern history have all occurred in the last 14 years. The 2000s was the hottest decade on record. Permafrost (land, not air) temperatures have increased even more, as not just the air, but the earth, is heating. Polar ice sheets are indisputably melting, and there is strong evidence that it is also melting at a faster rate, with additional risk of further positive reinforcement from warmer water encroachment (video here). And, while with such record setting ambient air temperatures the world ocean should have cooled a little (by giving off more heat energy then they took in, to in turn keep air temperatures higher than the norm on average - the oceans have instead continued to warm, even, at an accelerating rate. All this, during a phase of now low solar activity.
And, of course, all this aside from also ignoring the fact that greenhouse gases absorb and re radiate thermal energy that would otherwise waft into the upper atmosphere and beyond, thus "insulating" the earth, and over time, warming it - and that the increases to the levels of these gases, in a geologic sense, has already been massive. Which Newman also doesn't "agree" with. Or accept.
Which seems a little like religion, veiled as skeptical science.
Yet speaking of religion, Newman considers sensible measures to slow down our rapid continued increases to our atmosphere's long term greenhouse gas concentrations, akin to
The Gods, of fossil fuels. Based upon a belief system that our own destinies, industry, societal development, economy and growth is dependent upon purposefully engaging in practices that directly
harm our world - even though we have alternatives, and the ability to greatly learn and expand those alternatives - because for the moment, and without true competition that evens the business playing field between practices which cause great external harm, and those that do not - those more harmful practices, "cost less."
Update. 8-15-2014: Jason Box, a climatologist with over 70 outside reviewed publications germane to the topic of climate change, believes, as do many scientists who study the issue, that the threat of increasingly positive reinforcing climate change due to carbon release in the form of methane from melting ice and warming sea bed floors, is potentially extreme.
It's an "interesting" contrast; the professional climatologist who is super knowledgeable about the issue illustrating a widespread scientific concern about erupting methane heavily reinforcing an increasingly radical (and warming) climate change process, on the one hand, and a non scientist business adviser to the Australian President, who thinks, or claims, we are ignoring the risk of global cooling, "at our peril," based upon the anti science idea that it's always just the sun alone that drives everything. (Although his belief seems more centered on simply ignoring - or finding ways to dismiss or even reverse - the entire issue of greenhouse gas level increases.)
Climate Change in theory, short term anyway, could produce almost anything climate wise: And a movie starting Dennis Quaid entitled "The Day After Tomorrow" does dramatize (and fast forwards) massive glaciation - due not to a drop in solar radiation, which relative to our massive increase in greenhouse gases is wildly more far fetched, but to an abrupt climate change from sudden massive melt and a radical change in Atlantic currents suddenly bringing massively cooler temperatures far south.
How would that compare to the more mythical alien invasion idea, tossed about above to suggest that sounding an alarm bell about being "ill prepared" for global cooling under the current set of facts, was somewhere in between a pseudo reasonable speculation, and concern of ill prepareded-ness for "alien invasions"?
We could "in theory" prepare for major cooling if we knew it might happen. On the other hand, we probably couldn't for an alien invasion. (One might also surmise, other huge impediments aside, that if a civilization became advanced enough to leap galaxies, it might also be well past the need to "conquer" and "destroy," unless, of course, as Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson has wondered, there is some off chance they would simply view us in the same way we view, say, earthworms, and that higher evolution for massive intergalactic space travel wouldn't lead to treating advanced earthworms who are part of their own ecosystem, more respectfully.) And we don't prepare because the odds seem beyond ludicrous.
A serious freeze might have higher odds than something so ridiculous, but it would also likely not be anywhere as bad as an "alien invasion."And "The Day After Tomorrow" notwithstanding (again, based upon Climate Change - a massively unusual shift in something directly affecting the net energy balance of the earth, not solar radiation), it would come with some degree of warning.
Taking all that into account or not, and ironically enough given the opening rhetorical question of this post about alien invasions, Professor Matthew England's response upon hearing of Newman's claims, actually was:
Saying we aren't prepared for global cooling is like saying we aren't prepared for an alien invasion.Yet it was the non science oriented Australian Prime Minister business adviser who in his Australian piece op ed article claiming we are "ill prepared" for global cooling as a way to "cool" off concern over increasing radical atmospheric change, who claimed - and somewhat ironically given the level of climate change "refutation" in the U.S. Congress, for example - that politicians have "made science a religion."
In other words, the idea of assessing our world as best as we are able - what science is - and assessing sensible strategy in response, is suddenly "religion." Logic that equally applied, would perhaps render all strategic assessment based upon objective, empirical data and basic science or observational analysis (which is in essence almost all risk assessment the world over),"religion."
But perhaps, again, what has really been turned into something more akin with religion, is coming up with ways to try and refute the basic idea of anthropogenic climate change, by any means or argument possible. Including now, clinging to the mirror image alarmism of "not being prepared for cooling"; which, in his far fetched piece, Newman warns we ignore the signs "from nature" of, at our peril.(Presumably, Newman's not referring to the signs of increasing natural methane releases that have Box and so many others seemingly far more rightly concerned, but other "signs" which he doesn't actually reveal.)
Not signs of a warming world, which Newman, by this clever reversal into cooling "worry" tries to offset; but signs of cooling, because the sun might hit an unusual low spot in solar radiation. (As noted here, which is assessed as less likely than not; but again if it did, that would be great, because it would offset the process of climate change at least a little.)
The irony of this admonition of not heeding the signs of nature, at our peril, given all the signs, both subtle, and not so subtle, of increasing future climate change - likely toward more and not less volatility, and more overall heat, not less - probably couldn't have been better delivered in a work of satiric fiction. Yet it was delivered in The Australian as a very serious op-ed, by a business adviser to a major prime minister.
Of a country, and continent, no less, that just happens to be getting ransacked by increasing climate changes, drought, and heat.
Update 8-18-2-14: Newman so severely misinterpreted the relevant basic science, that the very scientist Newman relied heavily upon for his Op-ed claim that the sun, not our activities and changes to the atmosphere, have been driving all climate responses - actually called such a claim "scientifically ludicrous," among a litany of mistakes and mis-characterizations with respect to almost all scientific assertions made in - again - the very much non satirical, but certainly ironic, piece.