Can human society and natural ecosystems adapt to foreseeable climate change as they have done in the past?
Expert response by Dr Timothy Ball
Timothy Francis Ball is a former Professor and global warming skeptic. Dr Ball has a B.A. degree from the University of Winnipeg, an M.A. degree from the University of Manitoba in 1970 in Geography, and a Ph.D. degree in geography (climatology specialization) from the University of London, England in 1983, writing a thesis analysing historical weather records from Canada’s north. Dr Ball taught geography at the University of Winnipeg from 1973 to 1996, starting as a Sessional Lecturer and retiring as a Professor.
Rapid and significant change is the norm
The hypothesis that dangerous human-caused climate change will create rapid change beyond the adaptive capacity of human society and natural systems is based on two fallacies. First, that climate change has not occurred before as most of the public understands, otherwise how could the idea work that it was caused by humans and therefore be stopped. Second, because it had not occurred or at best very gradually over long periods the new rapid climate change was easily presented as greater in degree and speed. Than could occur naturally.
Western science views natural ecosystems from the philosophical basis of uniformitarianism. This view came from the work of Charles Lyell (1797-1875) and served as an underpinning for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Darwin took Lyell’s famous work Principles of Geology with him on the voyage of the Beagle during which the theory was formulated and evidence procured. Uniformitarianism is the concept that change is gradual over long periods of time. It prevails today.
There were a couple of challenges along the way. The most important was proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and called punctuated equilibrium. This argues that a relatively stable situation exists that is periodically interrupted by a catastrophic event that destabilizes everything until a new equilibrium is established. Gould published his ideas in academic journals but also took it to the public forum much like Galileo had published in Italian. This did not prevent attacks from academics like committed Darwinist Richard Dawkins who said punctuated equilibrium was, “an interesting but minor wrinkle on the surface of neo-Darwinian theory”. Gould raised even more questions about the rapidity with which change occurs in his book Wonderful Life.
In reality rapid and significant change is the norm. Even a cursory study of climate illustrates this idea. For example, just 20,000 years ago extensive ice sheets covered large parts of the world. One equal in area to the current Antarctic ice sheet covered over half of North America. Almost all the ice melted in approximately 5000 years. As the ice melted sea level rose 150 m in approximately 8000 years.
Natural ecosystems and animal populations go through boom or bust cycles in response to these cycles. Among the first to study these relationships was Charles Elton who showed the pattern of fluctuating numbers of predator prey with the lynx. There are collapses but there are also built in recovery strategies.
Below is a plot of population fluctuations of lynx produced by Elton and Nicholson.
There are regional catastrophic events throughout the Earth’s history, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, or tsunamis. A measure of the influence of uniformitarianism was reflected in the scientific view that recovery from the Mt St. Helen’s would take a very long time. Apart from the height of the trees the rapid recovery surprised the scientific community trapped in their narrow incorrect philosophical view.
There are global events that cause dramatic changes from which species do not recover, for example, the demise of the dinosaur following the strike by an asteroid. There are also periodic mass extinctions such as those associated with polar reversal. There is a period of zero magnetic field strength when everything is denied the protection of the magnetic field and these are accompanied by mass extinctions.
Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) scientists have exploited uniformitarianism. A critical part of the IPCC claims of human influence was the increase in temperature produced by P.D.Jones of 0.6oC since the end of the 19th century. This increase was presented as exceeding what could occur naturally. It wasn’t. We now know from the exposed Climatic Research Unit (CRU) emails that Jones clearly knew it would not bear examination and refuses, even now, to disclose how the number was achieved.
Tailpiece submitted by Terry Dunleavy, Executive Vice-Chair, International climate Science Coalition:
GOOD EXAMPLE OF ADAPTATION IN PRACTICE
The following extract from page 27 of the book, “An Appeal to Reason” by Lord Nigel Lawson is an example of adaptation in practice:
In any case, average world temperature is simply a statistical artefact. The actual experienced temperature varies not only between day and night and between summer and winter. It also varies enormously in different parts of the globe; and man, whose greatest quality is his adaptability, has successfully colonized most of it. Two countries at different ends of the earth, both of which are generally considered to be economic success stories, are Finland and Singapore. The average annual temperature in Helsinki is less than 5°C/41°F. That in Singapore is in excess of 27°C/81°F – a difference of more than 22°C/40°F. If man can successfully cope with that, it is not immediately apparent why he should not be able to adapt to a change of 3°C/5.4°F, when he is given a hundred years in which to do so.