Today we are constantly deluged with material on climate change, some more alarming than others. Of course, there is no question that global warming has happened, but on this matter we with our usual human arrogance blame ourselves. True, we have aggravated the situation and true, we can lessen the problem, but the ultimate cause has little to do with mankind (and little to do with carbon dioxide, for that matter), just as the Little Ice Age that went from the 13th to the 18/19th century had little to do with human causes.
In the time before the Little Ice Age, the world was considerably warmer than it is now, even though the so-called greenhouse gases were very low. Here are two bits of evidence – in brief.
In England, grapes were grown throughout the country. In fact, so much wine was being made that the French complained about the influx of English wines. When the ice age began to take hold, the grape crops started to fail. People had to stop drinking wine, and turn to beer because barley (especially) and other grains did OK. As we got to the coldest time of the Little Ice Age, the years leading up to the French Revolution, even the grain crops started to fail. The French were particularly affected, because the peasants had refused to make the switch to potatoes, which were less affected. These famines contributed significantly to the revolution.
Another piece of evidence is Greenland. I have seen it suggested that Eric the Red called it â€œgreen landâ€ to attract settlers, but this is not true. Greenland was in fact green, with luscious pastures for grazing, etc. The Greenland colony traded with Norway via ships that arrived at least once a month. After some 200 years of the colony’s existence, the climate began to change. The Little Ice Age had arrived. Snow and ice advanced, while the green fields retreated. Summers became very short. Ships could only rarely arrive through the ice bound seas. Finally, they couldn’t get through any more. The colony hung on as well as it could, but by the fifteenth century it had disappeared.
The real causes of global warming (and cooling) are of cosmic origin, as detailed in The Chilling Stars by Henrik Svensmark and increasingly verified by his subsequent work. The book is highly recommended reading.
I think the reason why Svensmarkâ€™s work is not at the forefront of discussion is threefold: (1) Svensmark is Danish, not American; (2) in the early years of awareness of climate change, any voices that appeared to be against mankind’s contribution to global warming were downplayed or attacked (Svensmark, however, supports the human contribution); and (3) the idea that humans are the cause of global warming is now so orthodox, so established, and everyone is jumping on the band wagon, that more rational investigatory voices are not being heard.
If the cause of global warming is not human, should we just go ahead on our own merry way? I think not. Apart from making sure that we adapt to climate change, the steps we are taking (or are being encouraged to take) will still be beneficial to the environment. Cutting down carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles or coal-driven power plants also cuts down other pollutants. Driving cars with better mileage, conservation and recyclingâ€”all these environmentally beneficial habits help to conserve our natural resources.