In his Jan. 8 Albuquerque Journal column on climate, syndicated columnist George Will made two major points.
One, that since climate varies naturally, humans cannot be “primary disruptors of climate normality.” There is a fallacy here: because climate varies without our help doesn’t mean we can’t have an important impact.
Will discusses historical climate change and the impact even minor climate variations have on human civilization, noting that temperature changes as small as half a degree Celsius can determine crop success or failure. Because small changes in climate can have large impacts on critical human activities, we need to study and understand climate and all the influences causing its change.
Climate responds to how much heat the earth receives from the sun, to how much of that heat the planet retains and to how it is distributed on the earth. Global climate also is influenced by variations in solar output (often correlated to sunspot cycles); wobbles in the earth’s orbit (Milankovich cycles); slow changes in the arrangements of the continents and oceans due to plate tectonics; eruptions of volcanoes that release climate-impacting particles and gases to the atmosphere; and variations in how ocean currents and water masses (eg., the Gulf Stream, Japan Current, El Niño/Southern Oscillation) distribute heat to the planet.