Can people alter weather and climate? “Countries are obliged to protect and preserve the marine environment” requires the important International Convention on the Law of the Sea, of 1982. Strict compliance would be a substantial contribution to the preservation of weather and climate. Instead, the debate on climate change is about anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, which is claimed to cause significant heating of the atmosphere and thus will have lasting effects on weather and climate. The focus in the current debate is on the increase in CO2 and air temperatures and the extent of which it is due to human contribution. That is by far a too narrow minded view!
• Yes, man can change the climate!
The majority of the scientific community has indorsed this view. The leading international institution for the assessment of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed the position explicitly in its most recent report of 2007:
“The warming of the climate system is unequivocal. The vast majority of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th Century is very likely caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations ” (IPCC 2007).
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is listed as the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas. The effect is called “anthropogenic global warming” (AGW). This view was already expressed in the first IPCC report in 1990 and has been established in global politics for a long time.
This is the view of a minority group of scientists and other persons participating in the discussion. They are often called ‘Skeptics’ or climate deniers, because they do not always share the anthropogenic aspect, in part or entirely. A book title brings this thought to the point: “Nature, Not Human Activity, determines the climate.” (Singer, et al., 2008) The book explains the view along the following conditions:
__”The increase of carbon dioxide is not responsible for the current warming.”
__”Political action, in the name of the ‘fight against global warming’ is taken and required, unnecessarily.”
__”The main causes of warming and cooling phases, extending over decades, can be derived from solar activity.”
The book recommends accepting nature as it is instead of investing large sums of money in the reduction of CO2 emissions.
And what is the role of the sun? Her impact is immense. The earthly system would not work without the sun. Any change of solar activity is reflected in the air temperatures, not necessarily synonym, but always traceable with a moderate margin, presumably never big enough to initiate a climatic shift over many millions of years. The Earth’s weather/climate system consists of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere (UNFCCC, Art.1, par.3), influenced by conditions within the water volume and processed in each sphere. The medium that sustains and controls the atmospheric temperatures are the oceans and seas. They determine the region, timing and magnitude of water vapor and temperature variability. The sun is the fuel of the climatic system, but the driver is the ocean, and, with an average temperature of merely 4° Celsius, the major source of serious climate changes. Oceans make climate!
• My view is: The use of the ocean by man is a potential threat to the climate.
Both positions have serious flaws for not caring about the anthropogenic impact in the marine environment, which has the greatest impact on the stability of weather and climate.
For me personally, the assessment of climate change is a matter of the oceans. After childhood years on a North Sea island, a long working life as a seaman, decks officer and captain on cargo ships, I regard the oceans as the determining factor in weather and climate. The discussion about climate change and any anthropogenic contribution must endorse and be based on this understanding. In 1988, my book on the international Law of the Sea of 1982 was published in England . This Convention should be not only assessed a global constitution, but also as the best tool to understand and protect the oceans. Article 192 of Part XII concerning the marine environment stipulates:
“States have the obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment.”
This obligation is of great importance for the atmosphere, weather and climate, because if mankind understands and protects the oceans, it will minimize the threat posed by anthropogenic climate change. If man fails on ocean matters, or understands too little, or too late, errors cannot be corrected. Man-made changes to the marine ecosystem, which have an effect on the weather system, cannot be controlled by man, even if science believes it is possible with the “greenhouse effect” by reducing CO2 emissions. 1992, at the beginning of the climate debate, I expressed my opinion already in a letter to the scientific journal NATURE, titled “Climate Change”:
“The climate is the continuation of oceans by other means”. (Nature, Vol. 360, 1992, p. 292)
Since the mid-19th Century, people began to use the oceans in a much more intensive way. Shipping and fishing abandoned sails, but navigated instead with motor engines and ship propellers. Correspondingly, over the last 150 years the Earth has warmed by about 0.7°C, with only two climatic shifts during the entire period. 90 years ago a 20-year warming cycle began, and then the earth cooled since the first war winter 1939/40 for about three decades. Both periods stand in close correlation with the two World Wars. Have human activities in the marine environment anything to do with the change in regional and global temperature, without ever being noticed or investigated?
b. Where do we stand today?
As the first report of the International Panel on Climate Change IPCC (1990, p. 76) already wrote that the sea has an essential role in the climate system, it seems all what needed to be said, had been said. This notion was confirmed in the latest report, but again with one sentence only: “The oceans play an important role in climate variability and climate change (IPCC, 2007, page 389) This is well said and thoroughly correct, but in no way reflected in climate research. Science is still staring up into the air trying to explain the danger of climatic changes primarily as an atmospheric matter. The attention given to the role of the ocean is still by far too little.
However the vast majority of scientists and politicians that deal with the climate issue are convinced that the problem lies in anthropogenic increased carbon dioxide emissions. This debate reached politics in 1988, when a NASA scientist, James Hansen, claimed in a hearing before the U.S. Congress that global warming is inevitable due to increased CO2 emissions. Al Gore supported the view in his book “Earth in the Balance – Forging a New Common Purpose”, in 1992, a few months prior to taking office, as Vice President of the United States . Meanwhile, Al Gore was awarded an Oscar for his film “An Inconvenient Truth” and, together with the IPCC, the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. The extreme narrowness of this thesis, and the resulting policies from this view, could one
day prove to be the real threat to mankind. Already huge investments are planned, or initiated, with a high potential of being completely wrong.
According to UNFCCC estimates in 2007, costs of adaptation to climate change would amount to $49–171 Billion per annum globally by 2030. The news magazine “Der Spiegel” explained the demands in a report on Feb. 21st 2007 as follows:
· “Only massive investment and a radical change of policy may yet avert the climate collapse. By 2020, the corner must be turned – that is according to information from SPIEGEL ONLINE, the alarming analysis of the IPCC. The UN experts say, what should be done.
· It is about $ 16 trillion – yes you have read correctly. 16,000,000,000,000 dollars are to be set up in 2030 primarily in low-CO2 technologies, researchers at the IPCC estimated this huge sum as costs for a full stop which can still save humanity from climate collapse.”
For those who have no idea of what this means, they should note that the economic cost of the entire WWII have been estimated with a sum of U.S. $ 1,600,000,000,000, which is 90% less than the IPCC suggestion. This approach is breath taking, and extremely irresponsible. CO2 is, if at all, only a small player in the climatic system.
c. What should we look at? Anthropogenic ocean use!
Any anthropogenic climatic change concern needs to consider human intervention in the marine environment. Alterations here have the potential to influence the dynamics of the atmosphere. Ever since numerous unexpected weather and climate phenomena occurred in close timely correlation with the First and Second World War a shock should have gone through the scientific community.
The aim should have been to understand the impact of human activities at sea and in the marine environment, as there are for example shipping, naval maneuvers, fishing, yachts, oil rigs and offshore wind farms. The investigation should not be limited to the current situation, but should cover the development during the last 150 years. The middle of the 19th Century marks two events, which have influenced weather and climate, ever since: The end of the Little Ice Age and the transition from sail to motor driven ships. Both events have contributed to global warming during the last 150 years. Shipping and any other activity at sea could have been major factors in ocean warming processes (see: Robert E. Stevenson; Fn.1).
Sea transport by propeller driven vessels is a very effective method to influence the sea surface structure over several meters depths. With the increase of ship traffic, the number of ships, and the size of ships, the influence has grown considerably over the years.
__aa) Currently, the world merchant fleet of some 40,000 ships (ships of 1,000 tons and more), Figure A3-4. Vessels over 1,000 tons displacement have a draft between 3 to 15 meters and a speed of about 12 to 25 nautical miles per hour (22 to 45 km/h). Per day they travel a distance between 500 to 1,000 kilometers. An account of all motor and propeller-equipped boats and ships with a draft of at least one meter would result in several million units – an armada that could ‘churn and mix’ the sea surface layer of the North Atlantic probably more than once in a year. __bb) Before propeller driven vessels sailed the seas, there was only one external force that could cause a “mixing effect”: the wind. The stronger the wind force the more mixing within the upper sea surface layer occurs. In very stormy conditions, the direct influence of the wind goes down to a maximum depth of 50 meters. The constantly enlarging ship and boat fleet over the last 150 years has a similar effect on the marine environment as the wind. Both change according to their intensity the temperature and salinity structure in the upper sea surface layer.