First American Ann Bancroft and Norwegian Liv Arnesen trekked off across the Arctic in the dead of the 2007 winter, “to raise awareness about global warming,” by showcasing the wide expanses of open water they were certain they would encounter. Instead, icy blasts drove temperatures inside their tent to -58 F, while outside the nighttime air plunged to -103 F.
Open water is rare at those temperatures, the intrepid explorers discovered. Facing frostbite, amputated toes and even death, the two were airlifted out 18 miles into their 530-mile expedition.
Next winter it was British swimmer and ecologist Lewis Gordon Pugh, who planned to breast-stroke across open Arctic seas. Same story. Then fellow Brit Pen Hadow gave it a go, but it was another no-go.
This year Aussie Tom Smitheringale set off to demonstrate “the effect that global warming is having on the polar ice caps.” He was rescued and flown out, after coming “very close to the grave,” he confessed.
Hopefully, all these rescue helicopters were solar-powered. Even hardened climate disaster deniers wouldn’t want these brave (if misguided) adventurers to be relegated to choppers fueled by hated hydrocarbons. They may be guilty of believing their own alarmist press releases – and the likes of Al Gore, James Hansen, the IPCC and Michael Mann, father of broken hockey sticks and Mann-made global warming. But missing digits or ideological impurity is a high price to pay.
Nonetheless, it’s easy to envision them dreaming of stoking up the boiler from the wreck of the “Alice May” over yonder on Lake Lebarge and chattering in their sleep: “Since I left Plumtree down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”
The explorers tried to put the best spin on their failures. “One of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability,” Bancroft-Arnesen expedition coordinator Anne Atwood said helpfully. “But please know global warming is real, and with it can come extreme unpredictable changes in temperature,” added Arnesen.
“Global warming can mean colder. It can mean wetter. It can mean drier. That’s what we’re talking about,” Greenpeace activist Stephen Guilbeault chimed in.
Who was it that defined insanity as hitting your thumb repeatedly with a hammer, expecting it won’t hurt the next time? And who’s paying for all these rescue operations? Mostly the same taxpayers who are also paying for the junk science that insists the entire ice cap will melt away by 2014.
Actually, the Arctic ice has been rebounding since its latest low ebb around September 2007. And despite steadily rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels – from 0.0285% or 285 ppm in 1870 to 0.0388% or 388 ppm today – average global temperatures have been stable or declining since 1995.
Even UK Climate Research Unit chief Phil Jones and other Climategate emailers acknowledge that now. “We can’t account for the lack of warming, and it’s a travesty that we can’t,” Kevin Trenberth moaned in one of the infamous Climategate emails.
Instead of sleds and snowshoes, the explorers should have rented Doc Brown’s “Back to the Future” time machine. They would have found plenty of the global warming and open waters they so desperately seek.
Vikings built homes, grew crops and raised cattle in Greenland in 950-1300, before they were frozen out by the Little Ice Age and encroaching pack ice and ice sheets.
Many warm periods followed, marked by open seas and minimal southward extent of Arctic sea ice, as noted in ships’ logs and discussed in scientific papers by Torgny Vinje and other experts. The warm periods of 1690-1710, 1750-1780 and 1918-1940, for instance, were often preceded and followed by colder temperatures, severe ice conditions and maximum southward ice packs, as during 1630-1660 and 1790-1830.
“Not only in the summer, but in the winter the ocean [in the Bering Sea region] was free of ice, sometimes with a wide strip of water up to at least 200 miles away from the shore,” Swedish explorer Oscar Nordkvist reported in 1822.
“We were astonished by the total absence of ice in Barrow Strait,” Francis McClintock, captain of the “Fox,” wrote in 1860. “I was here at this time in 1854 – still frozen up – and doubts were entertained as to the possibility of escape.”
In 1903, during the first year of his three-year crossing of the Northwest Passage, Roald Amundsen noted that his party “had made headway with ease,” because ice conditions had been “unusually favorable.”
The 1918-1940 warming also resulted in Atlantic cod increasing in population and expanding their range some 800 miles, to the Upernavik area of Greenland, fisheries biologist Ken Drinkwater has reported.
Global warming and climate change are certainly real. They’ve been real throughout Earth’s history, from the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, Little Ice Age and Dust Bowl – to countless other cycles of warming and cooling, flood and drought, storm and calm, open Arctic seas and impassable ice.
Humans clearly influence weather and climate – at least on a local scale – through heat and emissions from cities and cars, our clearing of forests and grasslands, our diversion of rivers.
But that is not the issue. Nor is it enough to say – as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson often does – that “the climate is changing and mankind is responsible in part for that change.” The assertion is simplistic and misleading. It skews the debate, stigmatizes fossil fuel use, and preordains public policy responses that are excessive, costly and unjust. The fundamental issue is this:
Are humans causing imminent, unprecedented, global climate change disasters? And can we prevent those alleged disasters, by dramatically increasing the price of carbon, drastically curtailing hydrocarbon use, slashing living standards, and imposing government control over industries and people’s lives?
There is no evidence to support these claims. Indeed, all the headline-grabbing disasters and a third of the citations in the IPCC’s massive 2007 climate report were newspaper articles, student papers, and press releases from climate activists and lobbyists – not peer-reviewed studies.
Crisis scenarios conjured up by computer models are no better. The models reflect CO2-centric assumptions, presume clouds exert only warming influences, rely on often manipulated temperature data from urban heat islands – and are little better than Farmville or Sim Earth.
They help scientists visualize how climate systems work. But they’re useless for predicting the future. They create virtual realities and virtual crises, and then “solve” them with virtual solutions. We need reality-based science and public policy.
Most Americans now blame climate change on natural forces, not human activity – and 75% are unwilling to spend more than $100 per year in higher energy bills to “stabilize” Earth’s turbulent and unpredictable climate (Rasmussen polls).
Our politicians need to reexamine the so-called “science” behind climate disaster claims, and demonstrate similar commonsense.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org). Willie Soon is an independent scientist who studies Arctic climate change.