Okay, so what does Global Warming and a barrel of Grape Juice have in common? First, how many times have you heard the two prevailing arguments against man-made climate change? Truthfully, even the scientists don’t make it easy to find concise answers. So when a friend who listens a bit too often to Rush Limbaugh or FOX News says something like, the environment is cyclical, responding with a sharp fact-based retort can be daunting.
There were ice ages and then warm ups, they say, parroting oil company propagandists such as those from the Heritage Foundation, and those cycles have happened a number of times throughout Earth’s history, long before there were SUVs. The other popular refrain is that we tiny little humans are just too insignificant to affect something as large as Earth’s incredibly large environment.
First, apparently they never looked closely at the terribly thin and fragile veil of protective atmosphere as seen from space. As for climate cycles. Sorry, there are no “cycles.” Cycles implies identical or near identical repetitions. That has never existed in earth’s climate. In fact, there are no cycles. There have been numerous Ice Ages, but all due to different causes; a shift in axis, a decline in solar output, massive geologic activity, differences in the make up of the atmosphere (i.e., higher levels of oxygen), changes in ocean currents, asteroid impacts.
Likewise, warm ups in between are due to a number of variables as well; changes in ocean currents, soot or ash absorbing sunlight helping to melt glaciers, greater CO2 levels in the atmosphere, ocean currents, etc. Bottom line, the environment is always changing, that much is true, but it isn’t cyclical. Careful not to get drawn into the changing seasons cycle. We are talking about long term global scale events. They are just trying to bury you in minutia because they have no argument at this point. Why? Because Limbaugh doesn’t get that detailed. Details hurt his fake argument.
Finally, we are just too small to affect the atmosphere. Hmm, you mean like global thermal nuclear war and nuclear winter? Or a thousand square miles of the uninhabitable Chernobyl Exclusion Zone? Or the entire Gulf of Mexico after an explosion and spill in just one well? That kind of we’re too small?
I was aware of the climate and environment issues back in 1978 thanks to my sophomore chemistry teacher, an ex-hippie named Mrs. Russo. That was the first of 5 years of Chemistry education, culminating in a college level chemistry class and an organic chemistry class. It was Mrs. Russo who got me hook on that branch of science. Back then the environmental issue was pollution. Mrs. Russo had a brilliant way of illustrating that issue. She taught us how to make wine!
The similarity to wine and the Earth’s environment is startling. Both can be considered a pristine, Eden-like environment for their respective inhabitants. The key to making wine is simply, to introduce tiny, microscopic bacteria to that comparatively monumentally huge sweet, sugary environment. Preposterous! says the Limbaugh bacterium. There is no way a few micro-organisms can affect a huge vat of grape juice. Why, we’ll just go on reproducing and doing as we please. After all, the great yeast god gave us dominion over all the juice in the vat!
The bacterial population explodes. There is an abundance of food, spurring exponential reproduction. But a consequence of the reproduction and the consumption of sugar are two waste products; CO2 and alcohol. Essentially a great exhale and everybody peeing in the pool at the same time. In my sophomore at home experiments, performed many, many times, I placed a balloon over the top of the bottle. When the balloon no longer filled up, the bacteria were dead. Time for a cocktail, after filtering out the near complete extinction of the bacteria, that is.
Had the bacteria had the good sense for temperance and not listened to the Amoebic little Rush Limbaugh they might have reached a point of equilibrium, at least until they could build a tiny little rocket ship and fly away. But the lesson here is that, like that tiny bacteria, relatively small organisms can definitely impact their environment. Just ask John Steinbeck.