Monday, September 19, 2005

Anthropogenic Time Scales

As a geologist it seems to me that most humans can only imagine time if it fits into their concept of a time span. If I assume that the average life span is "three score years and ten", then it may be no surprise that most people consider 70 years to be a "long" time. Yet in geological timescale terms this is nothing.

It seems likely that most scientists studying global warming (a.k.a. climate change) fail to appreciate geological time scales, principally because they are only interested in researching man-made (anthropogenic) effects that may have influenced climate change to a greater or lesser extent. So much easier, therefore, to focus on the last 100 years or maybe the last 1,000 years and then blame any observed climate change on humans.

There is no doubt that humans have had an increasingly large degree of influence on this planet over the past few hundred years but there seems to be very little debate on its relative influence when compared to natural causes (which could be considered as an uneven "background noise").

For example, how does the climate change effect attributed to humans stack up against the climate change effects of volcanic eruptions, el ninos, sunspot activity, etc. etc.? Is anyone attempting to research this aspect of climate change, ideally to separate the causes and effects of natural and human-made modifications to the planet's ecosystem? Perhaps no-one is, simply because it may not be all that easy to do (i.e. it could be impossible!)

And if this is not possible to do, then all the estimates and hypotheses being made have very little scientific basis. Is the climate change community therefore working on refining a premise without establishing its basis? Perhaps some education on geological time scales would be a good start.

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