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The historical climate debate

11 November 2013
Climate change

A paper by Fabien Locher and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, 'Modernity's Frail Climate: A Climate History of Environmental Reflexivity' published in Critical Inquiry (2012) is discussed at http://mygardenpond.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/we-are-plagued-by-drought-a… … in which the French authors have a French view on things, but suffice to say they have a jaundiced view in that they think the current climate debate is far too simplistic. What we need is more of the oomph. Far too much phlegm around.

The view that 'after centuries of frenetic mechanism, we (have) entered, at last, an enlightened era of environmental awareness …' is one of those fatuous views only the great and the good could put into words. Locher and Fressoz then set about tearing apart the condescending pomposity of it all as in the 18th and 19th centuries there was a highly politicised debate about human effects on local and global climate, and various hare brained ideas about how to tackle the imaginary problem. Scientists of the time were as equally loopy as some of them are today.

It seems it was the theory of the Ice Ages that we have to blame for providing impetus to climate doomsaying – but not in the way we might think first of all. It was not fear of the cold that drove the climate worrisome set as it came about due to two competing theories for what caused the newly invented Ice Age theory. The first was the astronomical theory – which eventually coalesced into the Milankovitch model (or those parts adopted by mainstream). The second theory involved atmospheric changes. This blamed natural changes in the Earth's gaseous layers – as developed by John Tyndal, Svantes Arrhenius, and Thomas Chamberlin. Arrhenius estimated that a doubling in co2 would push the Earth's average temperature up by 5 degrees (celsius). He didn't attribute it to the actions of humans in the industrial nations – he was seeking to understand the hot global climate when elephants and rhinoceros roamed the far north (it had been deemed impossible for the continents to have moved).

Funnily enough, an Australian professor, Murray Salby (rather controversially) has suggested co2 is related to temperatures – and if average global temperatures fall, so might co2 levels in the atmosphere (see http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/10/towards-a-theory-of-climate/ … but there is a health warning with this one as the post author, C Monckton, can't help being political and upsetting the odd commenter.

See also http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/mathematical-observational-p… … were the co2 connection is also disputed. No comment on validity.

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