Shrinking Glaciers and Presidential Politics

Written by CO2Science

September 27, 2008
Are earth’s glaciers wasting away at an accelerating pace as a result of carbon dioxide-induced global warming? John McCain ... and Barack Obama believe they are, and they have plans for massive government programs to reverse the dreaded meltdown by reducing our country’s carbon dioxide or CO2 emissions. But are these actions needed? Not according to the results of a recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research


By examining various ice and meteorological measurements made between 1865 and 2006, the paper's authors computed the yearly mass balances (positive for growth, negative for shrinkage) of four glaciers located in the Swiss Alps.  The results of their computations can be seen in the figure you are now viewing.  The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from these data -- and the conclusion climate alarmists are quick to promote -- is the fact that each of the four glaciers has indeed decreased in size.  But even more important than this observation is the fact that the rate of shrinkage has not accelerated over time, as evidenced by the long-term trend lines we have fit to the data.  What is more, there is no compelling evidence that this 14-decade-long glacial decline has had anything at all to do with the air's CO2 content.

Consider, for example, the changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration experienced over the same time period.  If we compute the mean rate-of-rise of the air's CO2 content from the start of the record to about 1950, and from about 1970 to 2006, we see that between 1950 and 1970 the rate-of-rise of the atmosphere's CO2 concentration increased by more than five-fold, yet there were no related increases in the long-term mass balance trends of the four glaciers.  Hence, it is clear that the ice loss history of the glaciers was not unduly influenced by the huge increase in the rate-of-rise of the air's CO2 content that occurred between 1950 and 1970, and that their rate of shrinkage was also not materially altered by what climate alarmists call the unprecedented warming of the last few decades, which they claim was greater than any other warming of the last one to two thousand years. 

Nevertheless, both John McCain and Barack Obama cite the shrinkage of earth's glaciers as one of the major pieces of evidence that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations pose a serious threat to the planet, and that we thus have a moral obligation to reduce our CO2 emissions.

Support sound science, and tell John McCain and Barack Obama that carbon dioxide is neither a pollutant nor a major source of global warming, but a vital resource that is essential to the well-being of humanity and nature alike. 

To learn more about the topic of this CO2 Truth-Alert, visit us at http://www.co2science.org/ and check out Glaciers in our Subject Index.

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