Late last year, I got into a discussion with a fellow who was quite sold on the idea that man’s activities were warming the Earth. While not a hardcore ideologue, it was apparent the gentleman had accepted the climate change narrative presented by mainstream media and believed we truly were imperiling the planet. I didn’t say much to him initially, as we were engaged in some recreation, but later on I resurrected the topic and told him I just wanted to pose one question.
“What is the ideal average temperature of the Earth”? I asked.
It was clear he was without an answer, so I explained my rationale. “If we don’t know what the Earth’s ideal average temperature is,” I stated, “how can we know if a given type of climate change — whether naturally occurring or induced by man — is good or bad? After all, we can’t then know whether it’s bringing us closer to or moving us further away from that ideal temperature.”
It was as if a little light bulb had lit up in his head, and he said, “You know, that’s a good question!”
I haven’t seen the man since, as we were just two ships passing in the night, and I don’t know how his thinking has evolved (or regressed) between then and now. I do know, however, that someone who’d seemed so confident and perhaps even unbending in his position had his mind opened with one simple question and a 20-second explanation.
Of course, part of the question’s beauty is that no one can answer it. There is no “ideal” average Earth temperature, only a range within which it must remain for life as we know it to exist. At the spectrum’s lower end, polar creatures proliferate; at its higher end, tropical animals do (though warmer temperatures do breed more life, which is why the tropics boast 10 times as many species as does the Arctic. Moreover, crop yields increase when CO2 levels are higher).
This brings us to another important point: Apocalyptic warmist dogma is buttressed by the virtually unchallenged assumption that if man changes something “natural,” it is by definition bad. But this is prejudice. Most of us certainly don’t believe this, for instance, when humans cure disease and use science to preserve and extend human life (or that of our pets).
As for climate, there have been at least five major ice ages, and “the most recent one began approximately 3 million years ago and continues today (yes, we live in an ice age!),” informs the Utah Geological Survey. Then there was the Cryogenian period, during which the Earth was completely, or almost completely, covered with snow and ice. If man had existed during that time, would it have been bad if his activities had raised the temperature a couple of degrees?
Within ice ages are shorter term cycles known as glacials (colder periods) and interglacials (warmer ones); glacials last approximately 100,000 years while interglacials last about 10,000 to 30,000 years. We’re currently in an interglacial called the Holocene Epoch, which began 11,500 to 12,000 years ago. This means that we could, conceivably, be poised to soon enter another more frigid glacial period.
Now, again, were this mitigated by a couple of degrees via man’s activities, would this be a bad thing?
In point of fact, warmists suggest that such mitigation is a reality. For example, citing research, science news magazine Eos wrote in 2016 that our Holocene Epoch “may last much longer because of the increased levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases resulting from human activity.”
Once more, would this be bad? Why? What’s that ideal average Earth temperature that this climate change would supposedly be moving us further away from? If you’re a member of one of the vast majority of Earth’s species, those prospering in (relative) warmth, it sounds like good news.
The question in question won’t cut any ice (pun intended) with those emotionally invested in the doom-and-gloom global warming thesis. After all, “You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into,” to paraphrase Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift. But with the more open-minded majority, the question can turn down the heat on the fear.