Coded gray.

Monday 17 July 2000

Green forest

Pic of the day: No wild boars here (which is just as well), but I saw a deer with two young ones right here! They didn't stay to have their pictures taken, though.

Hot air?

OK, I am sure you've got enough Master of Magic and perhaps even Harry Potter for a while. I could write about the young girl at the bus station, but then I'd have to switch to one of my more rarely used color codes. Ahem.

Or I could write about the local news, in which a sheep was kidnapped (lamb-napped?) and later released in another village, severely drunk. But my outlandish readers would probably just think this was business as usual in the Norwegian countryside. (Well, at least our boys buy the sheep drinks first, which is more than can be said about some other people. I'm not sure movie and a dinner would have been too well received anyway.)

But instead, I will write about the greenhouse effect again (been a while), since it was on the news today again. Be aware that this is from the viewpoint of one of the worlds northernmost nations. In fact, Norway has territories both on Svalbard (Spitsbergen), close to the North Pole, and Antarctica. We're not just a polar nation, we are bi-polar! Ahem. Onward science.


There was a leak from some upcoming UN report on global warming. Yes, another one. It is supposed to say that the global warming the last twenty, and in particularly the last ten years is clearly man-made. Originally it was stated that the warming the last century was man-made, but the problem is that there was actually quite some years of cooling in there. If we look at the last ten years, they have all been unusually hot, on a global scale.

The problem is, as a Norwegian expert pointed out, that ten or even twenty years is a very short time. Nature has its own fluctuations. The guy also said that we can't really know if the weather will get worse, as some scientist fear. But in this, I disagree. We can know. We only need to read history.

It so happens that the extremely hot weather we have these days is more on the level of what we used to have in the Viking age. It is still quite a bit cooler than in the Bronze age, when Norwegian women in straw skirts roasted the wild boars that their men had dragged home from the vast temperate forests. These days, you can't even get a few wolves to survive in our forests without feeding them a steady supply of live sheep.

At the dawn of civilization, Earth was even hotter, more like what is predicted for the end of the new century. The Antarctic ice did not melt and flood the known world, but Sahara was green and fertile, and remained so until shortly before the start of recorded history. There are those who think that the Egyptians who built the pyramids etc were descended from the people of Sahara. They certainly did have an artistic streak. And the heat didn't seem to bother them too much.


There have been times when I have hinted that the concern about global warming comes from the opinion shapers moving from the north-eastern states to California and Florida. No wonder it is suddenly getting hotter as people cram into those hothouse states. And here in Europe too, we see a steady stream of elderly people in particular moving to the Mediterranean. There would certainly have been more if people here spoke the same language and had largely the same culture.

But let's face it, it is a scientific fact that carbon dioxide levels are rising fast, and carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important greenhouse gas. So the air should get hotter. In fact, it seems more a mystery why it has remained so cool. Well, until you pull out some other science books, such as geology. It is also a scientific fact that Earth's temperature has fluctuated cyclically for the last few million years. Long eras of glaciation - the so called Ice ages - have been broken by short mild interglacials, of about 10 000 years duration. Our own interglacial has been remarkable in that it has been more stable than the preceding. There was only one backlash, rather early, after which the temperature rose till hippos roamed in the Seine (the river where Paris lies, in France). From there on, it has declined fairly steadily. We just barely avoided a new glaciation around the end of the late middle ages. By now, we should be on the verge of the plunge into 100 000 years of bitter cold.

I may be highly biased, but I think straw skirts may be preferable to shoveling 3 km of snow off the roof here.

Of course, it might be a good idea to put on the brakes really soon now. It is better to sustain a moderate output of greenhouse gas than to have a short heat wave and leave later generations with nothing to counteract the returning cold. But in the short run, I'm not overly worried. The hula-dancers of Hawaii may be losing their monopoly, but I'm sure they can adjust. A lot better than we could adjust to a mile-high glacier, certainly.

(Incidentally, this has been the coldest summer I can remember here on the south coast of Norway. But today wasn't bad.)

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