Human contribution to climate change
The Thursday, December 22, 2011 Japan Times newspaper printed a letter by Ivor Paul Kaplin of Wakayama whose title, “Humans
behind climate change,” is misleading. Acknowledgment of the human contribution to global warming is so common now that people overlook the details of the situation. Yes, human activity is contributing to global warming. But human activity is not the “primary cause” that Kaplin writes. The primary cause is that for many thousands of years the planet earth naturally has been in a warming phase. That phase is continuing, evidenced by the continuing retreat of alpine glaciers and polar ice caps. The last ice age did not end twenty thousand years ago and then yield to a so-called “inter-glacial” phase that we now inhabit. Instead, the last ice age is still in the process of ending. That is why it is impossible to stop global warming. We are contributing to the rise in ambient temperature, but the situation is beyond us, and we are just along for the ride on Spaceship Earth. We already knew that when the Kyoto Accord was negotiated.
Retarding or totally ending the human contribution to the warming trend will not retard or end the trend itself. Even if human activity was the primary culprit it must be pointed out that our contribution is not the result of the industrial age alone. It is the cumulative result of every environment-altering activity and every fire our species has ever undertaken, going back many millennia. Ending our part in it will take many thousands of years more even if our emissions were reduced to zero immediately. Therefore, I do not appreciate hearing talk of “ending global warming” by limiting human gas emissions, nor talk of human activity that ignores the evolution of climate in geologic time.
Curbing human contributions to the climate mess is a good thing. Most of all it makes us feel better about ourselves. But one day our species will become extinct. Extinction is natural, and the planet will go merrily on until the dying and expanding sun consumes it.