As readers of my blog may recognize, Greenland is one of the obscure would-be nations that I like to write about on occasion  , mostly because they are sufficiently obscure as regions not to be noticed by many people. Greenland, as the second largest resting place of terrestrial ice sheets, the kind that can raise sea levels, is considered by many as a canary in a coal mine when it comes to global warming. Therefore, even though Greenland is an obscure and remote and often-neglected place, it has a major potential role in the apocalyptic fear of scientists who believe in the imminent threat of catastrophe from man-made causes.
It is important to make a few caveats at the beginning of this entry, which will deal heavily with both the evidence on the ice in Greenland, as well as make a critique on the pseudoscience of climate scaremongers. Ironically, the case of Greenland’s shrinking ice caps offers two cases of smoke blowing–the first smoke blowing that is actually causing the melts of the ice caps of Greenland, which everyone can agree is a disastrous occurrence, not only for the people of Greenland, who would find their coastal settlements in danger of constant flooding from rivers of near-freezing cold water, as well as coastal inhabitants in general who would be threatened by rising seas as the ice enters the Atlantic. The second case of blowing smoke is the bloviating from climate “scientists” and their allies who have attempted to use the threat of Greenland’s ice caps melting as a way to engage in dubious political gamesmanship. So let us open by laying down the issues. First, the shrinking ice caps of Greenland are a potentially massive environmental disaster, regardless of one’s political ideology. Second, rather than instantly seeking to make political hay out of a problem, it is necessary first to understand the proximate (and more remote) causes as best as we are able by a look at evidence, before we expend too much rhetoric in dubious causes. Third, we must recognize that climate is more complicated than we may think, and that we as human beings are apt to over exaggerate our effects on the world, and apt to neglect other potential causes of changes in the world around us.
It was recently discovered by scientists that the cause of this past summer’s alarming melting of ice cap in Greenland was due to smoke coming from tundra fires in Labrador . Though it is not precisely clear what is causing the Canadian tundra fires, what has happened in Greenland is instructive–the soot from the fires has settled on Greenland’s ice caps, turning them from their usual white (high albedo–reflectiveness) color to something darker (with lower albedo) that absorbs more heat from the sun, causing the ice caps to melt substantially. It is therefore not increased temperatures in the air or water, but rather the contamination of ice by darker soot that causes the ice to soak up too much of the sun that has led to the melting of ice caps at an alarming rate, as about 95% of Greenland’s ice cap suffered melting this past summer, which is a very serious problem. It is not necessarily the sort of problem that was originally promoted by scaremongering climate “scientists,” however, and this is instructive for many reasons. Of course, responsibility for the tundra fires is also an issue as well that needs to be understood and addressed, to see whether there are anthropogenic causes of the fires, or whether the fires are due to “natural causes” or “acts of God.”
However, it is instructive that the initial response was not what would be considered nuanced or balanced in nature. In fact, the initial response of the Guardian Newspaper about Greenland’s melting ice caps was a fairly typical example of the panic and alarm that springs from the climate “scientists” of the left who wish to push their radical environmentalist agenda, facts and evidence be damned. For example, just this past July the environmental reporter for the Guardian made smug comments about how he was not surprised at the rapid melting of Greenland’s ice cap, which he blamed merely on temperatures (assuming them, of course, to be caused by human beings) . Likewise, this same newspaper passed along a bogus back-of-the-envelope calculation that claimed that the loss of Arctic sea ice was 70% the fault of mankind, presumably coal-fired power plants and evil people who drive SUVs . Another writer from this same newspaper, on the same day as the other two reports, wished to make political hay by claiming that the image of Greenland’s ice melting was a blunt confirmation of the “fact” that human-caused climate change required rapid and decisive action , when the reality was far more nuanced and far less clear.
Let us note that even before the cause of Greenland’s melting ice caps was known through the collection of evidence and data and their analysis by genuine scientists, there was a deliberate and fairly extensive attempt by the Guardian newspaper to spread a frightening message of imminent and massive climate change that was blamed on people and industry and that was used to motivate a dubious and highly risky left-wing political agenda. That this message has ended up to be largely in error based on the facts hardly seems to detract from the fervor of those who wish to use any kind of event that might push their agenda. Let us remember that in the 1970’s there was a concern about global cooling due to freon and other cfcs that were supposedly destroying the ozone layer, but after that it was global warming and the threat of carbon dioxide that became more dangerous. The political agenda and desire for increased government control over business has remained constant, even as the specific nature of the threat has changed in the eyes of the false prophets of apocalyptic doom.
It should be noted as well that some among the pseudoscientific community of climate “scientists” believe in possible second-order effects, where global warming causes sea ice in Greenland to melt but that causes the cold water Labrador current to overwhelm the warm water Gulf stream, leading to lower temperatures (rather than higher ones) in the Northern Hemisphere. This sort of nuance and complexity should lead to humility and caution, the sort of caution that would not claim that we know what is going to happen given the frequently fraudulent GIGO (garbage in-garbage out) climate models used to predict the future, and the sort of caution that would desire a politically non-partisan message of global stewardship of the world that did not promote a radical leftist agenda but rather a moderate and reasonable and balanced use of the land that would preserve present economic growth as well as provide a pleasant environment for future generations. It is precisely this sort of humility and balance that is missing in the tactics and approach of those who agree with the radical leftist agenda of the Guardian and those who agree with it. The question we have for ourselves, is will we seek to understand what is going in in places like Greenland before jumping to dogmatic and excessive conclusions, or will we show ourselves to be shameless and unethical political hucksters seeking to push our agenda, even to the point of making up evidence out of thin air to blow smoke and spread panic. That choice remains with all of us–let us choose wisely and well.