I have no doubt that global - that a trend of
global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a
problem we must wrestle with.
To assume that it is a problem is to assume
that the state of earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best
climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to
make sure that it doesn't change.
First of all, I don't think it's within the
power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions
of years of history have shown,
and second of all, I guess I would ask which
human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding
that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the
best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant
position for people to take."
Mike Griffin, NASA Administrator
Climate alarmists do not want our present climate to change. Implicit in
this position is the assumption that our current climate is the most optimal. They
want to retain the climate as it is now, treating the present as the best climate we ever had in earth’s history. However, Mike Griffin, NASA Administrator in a 2007
interview to US National Public Radio questioned the very rationale of such an
assumption as seen in the above extracts from his interview.
So what could be the most optimal climate the Earth has experienced so
Surprisingly, cutting across climate alarmist-sceptic divide, there
exist almost a near unanimity of opinion among climatologists who treat the Eocene Epoch’s Climate, some 55-33
million years ago, as the period equivalent to Earth’s
Golden Period or Paradise. Climate alarmists singularly blame human beings for supposedly
triggering climate changes which they say hold catastrophic consequences for
life on this planet. Homo sapiens i.e. human beings as a species had not yet evolved
during the Eocene epoch. And yet average global temperatures were then 10 deg C
higher than present with CO2 levels 4 times higher than current levels. Life
productivity was in optimum, perhaps as never seen during Earth’s entire geological
Paul MacRae gives us a
glimpse of the Ecocene in a paper entitled Back
to the Future: Paradise Lost, or Paradise Regained? published in the
popular climate sceptic blog WUWT
Paul MacRae is an
ex-journalist who has worked as an editor, editorial writer and columnist for
several newspapers over the past 40 years, including The Toronto Star, Globe
and Mail, Bangkok Post, and Victoria Times Colonist. In 2002
Paul switched to academia and now teaches English and professional writing at
the University of Victoria and University Canada West, a new private university
in Victoria, BC.
Paul maintains a website, False Alarm, where you will find excerpts from
and notes of his book on climate change entitled False Alarm: Why Almost
Everything We’ve Been Told About Global Warming is Misleading, Exaggerated, or
Plain Wrong* (* Including the Claim that the Planet is Warming).
to the Future: Paradise Lost, or Paradise Regained?
In June, a NASA climate study
announced that the warm middle Miocene era, about 16 million years ago, had
carbon dioxide levels of 400 to 600 parts per million.
The coasts of Antarctica were ice-free in summer, with summer
temperatures 11° Celsius warmer than today. The study concluded that today’s
CO2 level of 393 ppm was the highest, therefore, in millions of years, and
could go to Miocene levels by the end of the century. It was implied,
although not directly stated, that readers should react with horror.
A UCLA team, writing in Science, had
already pushed the Miocene button in 2009, claiming:
“The last time carbon
dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today [15 million years ago,
again the mid-Miocene]—and were sustained at those levels—global temperatures
were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit [2.7-5.5°C] higher than they are today, the sea
level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no
permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and
Back to the Miocene! Scary!
James Hansen, the alarmist head of NASA’s Goddard
Institute for Space Studies (GISS), regularly refers to past eras as a warning
of the climate catastrophes that could occur today. For example, in 2011 Hansen
“[An increase of] two degrees Celsius is guaranteed disaster…. It is
equivalent to the early Pliocene epoch [between 5.5 and 2.5 million years ago]
when the sea level was 25m (75 feet) higher.” 
Back to the early Pliocene!
And, in testimony to the U.S. government:
“The Earth was much warmer than today in the early Cenozoic [which began 65
million years ago]. In fact it was so warm that there were no ice sheets on the
planet and sea level was about 75 meters (250 feet) higher.” 
planet could revert to the age of dinosaurs! (Hansen didn’t mention that sea
levels today are 120 metres—almost 400 feet—higher than they were a mere 15,000
years ago, without creating a catastrophe.)
If we don’t curb our carbon-emitting ways,
the alarmists warn, we face “increasingly radical temperature changes, a
worldwide upsurge in violent weather events, widespread drought, flooding,
wildfires, famine, species extinction, rising sea levels, mass migration, and
epidemic disease that will leave no country untouched.”  The only
catastrophe not mentioned here is “acidification” (i.e., a slight decrease in
alkalinity) of the oceans.
If a warmer, more CO2-rich world
would be hell in the future, it logically must have been hell in the past, too,
when global temperatures were much warmer and carbon dioxide levels much
higher. How could anything live, for example, in those “acidified” oceans of
the Miocene? At least, this is what alarmist climate scientists like Hansen
want the public to believe.
An Eocene ‘paradise’
Curiously, while alarmists warn about the
horrors of returning to the climate of millions of years ago,
paleoclimatologists tell a different story. They more often see our earlier
planet as a “paradise,” even “paradise lost.”
In fact, “paradise lost” is the subtitle of a
1994 book on our planet 33 million years ago by veteran paleo-climatologist
Donald A. Prothero—The
Eocene-Oligocene Transition: Paradise Lost.
The Eocene (55-33 million years ago) began what is sometimes called the
Golden Age of Mammals. This geological age was at least 10°C warmer than today,
free of ice caps, and with CO2 levels, Prothero suggests, of up to 3,000 parts
per million, which is almost eight times today’s level of about 400 ppm. Yet
Prothero calls the Eocene a "lush, tropical world.”
At the end of the still very warm Oligocene
(33-23 mya), Prothero puts CO2 levels at 1,600 ppm, or four times today’s
levels. Prothero’s 1994 CO2 estimates may be a high, but no one—not even
Hansen—denies that CO2 levels were several times higher than today’s in the
Eocene and Oligocene and, indeed, right down to the Miocene (23-5 mya).
For Prothero, the boundary between the Eocene
and Oligocene was “paradise lost” because it was then, about 33 million years
ago, that the planet began its slide from a “lush, tropical world” into its
current ice age conditions (see Figure 1), with glaciations every 85,000 years
interspersed with brief, 15,000-year warm interglacials.
In fact, the planet is currently its coldest in almost 300
million years. Yet, for Hansen and others in the alarmist camp, our ice-age
world is in danger of getting too
hot—maybe even as hot as the Pliocene, or the Miocene, or the
Oligocene, or even, heaven forbid, the Eocene.
Many other writers on paleoclimate also use
the term “paradise” to describe climate in the distant past. For example, in a
history of evolution for younger readers, science writer Sara Stein paints the
Eocene of 50 million years ago as follows:
“The world that all the little brown furry
things [mammals] inherited from the dinosaurs was paradise. [emphasis added] The climate was
so mild that redwoods, unable now to live much further north than California’s
pleasant coast, grew in Alaska, Greenland, Sweden, and Siberia. There was no
ice in the Arctic. Palm trees grew as far north as 50 degrees latitude, roughly
the boundary between the United States and Canada. Below that subtropical
zone—that was similar to Florida’s landscape today—was a broad band of tropical
Sounds grim, doesn’t it?
One of the most prominent climate alarmists,
Tim Flannery, also uses the “p” word when he describes Eocene North America in
his very readable The
Eternal Frontier,on the geological and biological history of North
America. Flannery writes:
When Earth is warm (in greenhouse mode)—as it
was around 50 million years ago—North America is a verdant and productive land. [emphasis
added] Almost all of its 24 million square kilometers, from Ellesmere Island in
the north to Panama in the south, is covered in luxuriant vegetation.
Flannery titled the section of the book that
deals with the “verdant and productive” Eocene as: “In Which America Becomes a
Tropical Paradise.” Yet this was a time, it should be remembered, when
temperatures and CO2 levels were much
higher than today’s. Unfortunately, trapped in his alarmism, Flannery doesn’t
see the irony.
British paleontologist Richard Fortey
describes the landscape of Australia 20-35 million years ago, during the Oligocene
and Miocene, as being “as rich as Amazonia, green and moist, with trees and
ferns in profusion.” Today much of Australia, an area the size of the
continental United States, is desert and bush and supports only 22 million
people compared to 300 million in the U.S.
As recently as 125,000 years ago, the peak of
the last interglacial, our planet was 3-5°C warmer than today at the poles
according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) itself, with
sea levels 4-6 metres (12-20 feet) higher than today’s interglacial so far.
Even Britain was semi-tropical, with hippopotami gamboling in the Thames,
apparently untroubled by extreme weather events, extreme droughts, extreme
A mere 7,000 years ago, during the Holocene
Optimum period that was at least 1°C warmer than today, much of the Sahara
Desert was green, as were many other regions that today are desert. Why?
Because warmer temperatures mean less polar ice, making more water available
for precipitation, and therefore promoting a greener planet.
So, millions of years ago, during geological
eras much warmer than ours, with much higher levels of carbon dioxide, the
planet faced the same environmental hazards as today—volcanoes, earthquakes,
tsunamis and the like. But it was not plagued by the extreme weather events,
extreme droughts, extreme flooding, mass extinctions, or even the ocean
“acidification” claimed by climate alarmists for the world of the future.
Sea level ‘disaster’?
On only one point have the alarmists got it
right: during these warmer times of the geological past sea levels were higher,
sometimes many metres higher—a point Hansen mentions again and again in his
For example, Hansen notes that while only two
per cent of the Earth’s land surface is within 10 metres of sea level, this two
per cent also has 10 per cent (more than 630 million) of the world’s
population. Hansen says a five-metre (15 foot) rise would, without costly dikes
or other measures, inundate many large cities, including New York, London,
Shanghai and Tokyo. This sea level increase, he concludes, would be
“disastrous.” Hansen even seriously predicts five metres (15 feet) of
sea-level rise by the end of the 21st century under a Business As Usual carbon
However, most climate scientists—even
alarmist scientists—know that Hansen’s predictions are hallucinations and
accept that a sea level rise of this magnitude could only take place over
centuries and millennia, just as sea levels today have taken 15,000 years to
rise 120 metres (400 feet).
For example, in 2006 the Sierra Club released
a map of Victoria, British Columbia, flooded by a sea-level rise of from six to
25 metres (see Figure 2). The Sierra Club predicted that if we did nothing
about carbon emissions, flooding of this magnitude could occur “in the lifetime
of our grandchildren,” that is, within the century.
Even University of Victoria climatologist
Andrew Weaver, an arch-alarmist, was moved to protest against this barrage of
exaggeration and misinformation, writing to the Victoria Times Colonist letters
science suggests serious societal consequences of global warming in the short
term, while the changes in sea level that the Sierra Club tout happen over thousands of years.
[emphasis added] This clumsy story just makes it easy for the deniers to claim
there is no problem.”
The ultra-alarmist site de Smog Blog also joined
the chorus against the Sierra Club’s absurd apocalyptism with a blog entitled
“Sierra Club drowns in own climate catastrope” (the de Smog headline writer
apparently could not spell “catastrophe”).
In other words, in the real world (as opposed
to Hansen’s world), sea-level rise of any magnitude will take centuries and
even millennia. The current rate of sea-level increase is just over 2 mm a
year, or about 20 cm per century. At this rate—and at the moment the rate shows
no signs of increasing—sea levels would take 2,500 years to reach Hansen’s five
metres. Based on several interglacials over the past 600,000 years, which at
their peak had sea levels several metres higher than today’s levels according
to the IPCC, the seas would rise five metres or more even if human beings
didn’t emit carbon.
Coping with sea-level
Can humanity cope with rising sea levels,
whatever those levels may be? If climate alarmists don’t cripple our
carbon-based economy, even the IPCC predicts that both developed and developing
countries will have all the prosperity they need to cope with rising sea
levels, be it seawalls, landfill, or relocations to desert and polar areas
that, thanks to warmer temperatures and greater precipitation, are now fit for
Figure 3 shows GDP per capita for four of the
IPCC’s climate scenarios, from Business As Usual (A1) to anti-carbon, between
1990 and 2100. In all four scenarios, humanity becomes better off, but humanity
is best off in the red-line, A1 scenario, which is basically Business As Usual.
In the red BAU scenario, the world’s per
capita income will rise from $5,000 a year in 1990 to $70,000 a year in 2100,
based on 1990 dollars. In other words, if we do nothing at all to try to stop
global warming, by 2100 even poor countries will have the resources they need
to adapt to climate change, whether warmer or cooler.
And, again, a warmer, wetter planet would
“green” many of the world’s desert regions, including the Sahara and Australia,
just as warming did in ages past. Meanwhile, thousands of square miles of land
currently under ice or Arctic scrub would be open to settlement.
A wetter, greener world
And this still doesn’t take into account the
positive effect of higher levels of CO2 in fertilizing plants.
Physicist and biologist Sherwood B. Idso, who has specialized in charting the
relationship between CO2 and plants, notes:
A simple 330 to 660 ppm doubling of the air’s
CO2 content will raise the productivity of all plants, in the mean,
by about one-third. … As atmospheric CO2 concentrations more than
double, plant water-use efficiencies more than double, with significant
improvements occurring all the way out to CO2 concentrations of a thousand
ppm or more.
Think of what such a biological
transformation will mean to the world of the future. Grasslands will flourish
where deserts now lie barren. Shrubs will grow where only grasses grew before.
And forests will make a dramatic comeback to reclaim many areas presently
sustaining only brush and scattered shrubs. 
Sound utopian? Even the IPCC acknowledges
that doubled CO2 levels can produce increases of up to 33 per cent
in plant growth, while also making plants more drought resistant.
Millions of years ago our planet was much
warmer and wetter than today, with much higher levels of CO2.
Alarmists like Hansen say a return to those temperatures and CO2
levels would be catastrophic. Yet our planet in earlier geological ages is
almost always described as a tropical paradise, not a blasted, carbon-choked
hell. Sea levels were higher, but a prosperous humanity can cope with higher
However, the huge Antarctic ice cap—the “deep
freeze” in our planet’s basement—didn’t exist in the Eocene or Oligocene. So
even if the catastrophic warming hypothesis is valid—that’s doubtful, but
if—it’s unlikely our planet will go back to Eocene or Oligocene warmth.
But if, as alarmists warn, we return to the
Pliocene, or even the Miocene, would that be paradise lost? Or paradise
 “Study finds ancient warming greened
Antarctica.” NASA website, June 17, 2012.
 “Last Time Carbon Dioxide Levels Were
This High: 15 Million Years Ago, Scientists Report,” Science Daily, Oct. 8,
 James Hansen, “G-8 Failure Reflects U.S.
Failure on Climate Change.” Huffington
Post, July 9, 2009.
 Hansen, Address to American Geophysical
Union, December 2011.
 Hansen, “Statement of Witness James E.
Hansen.” No date given.
 Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate
Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. New York:
Bloomsbury, 2009, p. 265.
 Nuclear lobbyist John Ritch. Quoted in
Tom Zoellner, “Nuclear power gets its swagger back.” Globe and Mail, March 14,
2009, p. F5.
 Donald R. Prothero, Eocene-Oligocene Transition: Paradise Lost.
New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1994, p. 35.
 Prothero, pp. 22, 238
 Sara Stein, The Evolution Book. New York: Workman
Publishing, 1986, pp. 245-246.
 Tim Flannery, The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological
History of North America and its Peoples. London: Vintage, 2002, p.
 Richard Fortey, Life: A Natural History of the First
Four Billion Years of Life on Earth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1998, p. 270.
 IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers, p.
 See Wikipedia “Holocene climatic
optimum” and “Green Sahara” for details.
 Hansen, “Climate Catastrophe.” New Scientist, July 28,
 Hansen and Makiko Sato, “Paleoclimate
Implications for Human-Made Climate Change,” 2011.
 “Rising ocean would flood much of
Greater Victoria.” Victoria Times
Colonist, Dec. 6, 2006.
 Andrew Weaver, “Scary story sets back
understanding.” Letter, Times
Colonist, Dec. 8, 2006.
 Nigel Arnell, et al., “Climate and
socio-economic scenarios for global-scale climate change impacts assessments:
Characterising the SRES storylines.” Global
Environmental Change, 14 (2004), p. 9. See also Indur Goklany, The Improving State of the World.
Washington, Cato Institute, 2007, pp. 303-309.
 Sherwood B. Idso, “Carbon dioxide and
global change.” Rational
Readings on Environmental Concerns, Jay H. Lehr, ed. New York: Van
Nostrand Reinhold 1992, p. 422.
 IPCC 2001, Chapter 3, Section 188.8.131.52,
p. 195. See also IPCC 2007, Working Group III, Chapter 3, Section 184.108.40.206,
“Land use change and land use management.”
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