As we continue to build up carbon in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels, we never know when the next emitted carbon molecule will tip over some ecosystem and trigger a nonlinear climate event — like melting the Siberian tundra and releasing all of its methane, or drying up the Amazon or melting all the sea ice in the North Pole in summer. And when one ecosystem collapses, it can trigger npredictable changes in others that could alter our whole world.
The misuse of “unprecedented” by anthropogenic global warming enthusiasts, such as the literate Thomas L. Friedman, the polemicist Al Gore, and many other college educated liberals is unprecedented. So much so that I consulted a dictionary to ascertain whether its meaning had changed, or whether there was a nuance that allowed its seeming perversion. There wasn’t. “Unprecedented” still means what I thought: without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled.
For the current level of carbon in the atmosphere to be unprecedented, it simply means that the current level was never before achieved – or surpassed. Five hundred million years ago atmospheric carbon dioxide was twenty times today’s level. Does that qualify as a previous instance? About 150 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period, it was four to five times as high. Does that qualify as something known before or experienced?
Apparently what should alarm us is not the build up of carbon in the atmosphere, which is obviously not unprecedented, but that it will “tip over some ecosystem and trigger a nonlinear climate event.” Perhaps as happened 10.000 years ago during the Holocene Climate Optimum, when average global temperatures were about 4ºC higher than today? Except nothing was tipped to melt the Siberian tundra and release all its methane, the Amazon didn’t dry up, and although all the sea ice at the North Pole melted in the summer, nothing catastrophic ensued.
All that happened is that human civilization prospered and thrived in the warmer, wetter environment. The same thing happened during subsequent warm periods following cold periods in cycles of hundreds of years up to the present. The Roman Warming was good for humanity; the following Dark Age wasn’t. Then about 1200 years ago the Medieval Warm Period began, and mankind again prospered for five hundred years until the Little Ice Age began about 1300 AD. Crops failed, famine stalked the land, glaciers advanced over farms and villages, mighty storms spread devastation, droughts (which are more frequent and last longer during cold periods) added to the misery, and disease and pestilence cut weakened populaces in half.
Happily, the Little Ice Ages ended and our Modern Warming began naturally, just as would be expected, given that similar cycles are not unprecedented.