The Geology of Climate Change


Many opinions expressed by one camp or the other clearly identify the seminal differences in their world view. “If the globe is an organism and global warming is a fever induced by human activity then humanity is an illness. Those misanthropes in climate change industry who hold this view start from a point of view that the planet is sacred and humans are somehow harming it.”

Among these identifiers of the great divide, someone put forward the notion that geologists are common in the ranks of climate change deniers and rare in the scientists supporting it. The assumption of most commentators analysing this phenomena is that geologists see the occurrence of many global warming events in the past and therefore see nothing uncommon about the current cycle.

That seems to me to be a point of view exploring a little more thoroughly.

One of the characteristics of life on earth is that it is fuelled by sunlight. Plants capture the energy of the sun to build complex carbo-hydrates from carbon dioxide CO2 and water H2O.

The oxygen O2 that is a by-product of this process is the active component that allows animals to break down those carbohydrates and release the energy stored in them so they can live. The presence of oxygen and the absence of carbon dioxide is the most remarkable difference about the earth pre and post the carboniferous age.

Even without Lovelock’s observation that the dynamic nature of earth’s atmosphere is a clear indicator of life, there is no doubt that the evolution of chlorophyll in plants began changing the atmosphere of the earth by sequestering the carbon dioxide into plant material which was locked up in forests and buried under ground.

So, over hundreds of millions of years, life altered the perceivable chemistry of the earth, radically changing the climate and with it, the water and carbon cycle.

It is hardly surprising then, that by digging up those carbon deposits and releasing them back into the atmosphere that we have had an impact on that same atmosphere and climate. All that remains is some back of the envelope calculation to indicate what kind of impact two hundred years of industrial development have had on hundreds of millions of years of gentle sequestration.

Given that, there is absolutely no reason for geologists not to join the rest of their scientific colleagues in calling for an end to the false debate that there is “another side” to the story and that we have not exhausted all the arguments as to why the world is really flat.


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