STRAINING AT GNATS IN ANTARCTICA
by Keith Henderson
As a car buyer, would you be willing to pay anything significant to get a vehicle with 0.011% better gas mileage? As a businessman, does a 0.011% change make a difference to your plans? Would you change your neighborhood of 20+ years for a 0.011% decrease in security risk, particularly if you knew it could reverse itself shortly thereafter?
Just to be sure we’re thinking realistically about the magnitude of 0.011%, we can also express it as only 110 in a million.
A technical paper recently published in Nature speaks breathlessly of massive volumes of ice melt in Antarctica—3 billion tons from 1992 to 2017!
But who can relate to a billion tons of ice? I confess I can’t even imagine what it would look like. If it were a cube, what would be its dimensions? If it were ten feet thick and five feet wide, how long would it stretch? How many glasses of tea would it chill? Do you have any idea, right off the top of your head? Neither do I.
And that’s what the authors of this and similar articles are depending on. They toss out astronomical numbers, confident that lay readers will have no sense of proportion for them.
However, when compared to the 27,000 billion tons of total Antarctic ice, we are worrying about a trivial 0.011% decrease over a 25-year period. That is, out of every million parts, Antarctica lost 110 in 25 years. At that rate, how long would it take to lose half of Antarctica’s ice? Over 100,000 years!
Suddenly the situation doesn’t sound quite so dire, does it?
In the real world where decisions of consequence are made, this is simply round-off—or “windage,” as a shooter pulling the trigger might say!
Yet, climate alarmists are spinning the 0.011% decrease in Antarctic ice mass over 1992–2017 as “we are in serious trouble” and “ice loss has tripled in a decade.”
Does this 0.011% decrease flood the world’s coastlines? Not unless your flood threshold is less than the width of your pinky (i.e., 0.31 inch).
As usual, alarmists project their supposed bad news forward into the future as invariably caused solely by the progress of civilization enjoying hydrocarbon fuels. If per chance this current rate of calculated rise in sea level were to continue (an assumption that has no justification other than hypothetical conjecture), then even over a period of 200 years we are looking at a sea level rise of less than 3 finger widths (i.e., 2.4 inches).
Should we panic and return to the horse and buggy to prevent it?
As for me, I sleep well knowing that 99.989% of the Antarctic ice cap is still there. And even if the loss rate of 1992 to 2017 continues for a total of 250 years, 99.89% of it will still be there.
Additionally, we must respect forces beyond our control. We have no idea whether the melt rate will remain the same, accelerate, or decline over the next century or two. That’s partly because we have no idea what energy mix the nations will use, and partly because it will be controlled primarily by natural factors like cyclical changes in
- solar irradiance, the amount of energy emitted by the sun, which affects earth’s temperature;
- solar magnetic wind , which modulates the influx of cosmic rays, which in turn affect the formation of clouds, which modulate earth’s temperature; and
- ocean currents like the proverbial El Niño/Southern Oscillation, which affects not only weather and hurricane formation along the Gulf of Mexico but also temperature worldwide.
But changes in atmospheric temperature aren’t all the forces that affect Antarctic ice formation and depletion. Volcanism is an uncontrollable threat to Antarctic ice. Indeed, there are at least 91 volcanoes in Antarctica alone.
Jesus certainly encountered those who would abuse others via political power as they strained to enforce inconsequential self-righteousness standards against others, but were willing to swallow whole systems of human cost to maintain their control of the populace.
Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. (Matthew 23:24–25, NKJV)
Are our environmental standards a blessing or a curse? Are we, including scientists who are still human in spite of rumors to the contrary, deceptive in our pursuits of government financial grants?
Swallowing the Paris Climate Agreement, or any other global warming mitigation measure, to add 0.011% more ice to Antarctica for future generations is a straining not worthy of consideration.
Keith Henderson, P.E., is a chemical engineering consultant with a Masters in Christian Apologetics and is a Contributing Writer for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
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