People send me stuff.
Reader Kurt writes:
I just found your excellent website and have book marked it and will visit it often for updates. One simple question the global warm-mongers have never been able to answer is…
…that if in fact warming is taking place as they claim, what then is the optimum temperature of the Earth? Can they give us a number? is it 55 degrees? 78 degrees? 85 degrees? 98.6? Al Gore says the Earth has a fever – then what is the “normal” temperature?
I thought about that long and hard, and thought to myself that it is sort of like a “Goldilocks” subjective temperature for porridge:
At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.
“This porridge is too hot!” she exclaimed.
So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.
“This porridge is too cold,” she said
So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.
“Ahhh, this porridge is just right,” she said happily and she ate it all up.
But what is “just right” for Earth’s temperature? Depending on who you might ask, I suspect you’d get different answers.
Ancient Greece, living in their age of enlightenment, which flourished during the 5th to 4th centuries BC might remark “είναι σωστό τώρα, τον πολιτισμό μας ευδοκιμεί” or “it is correct now, our civilization is thriving”.
The Romans, who lived through the Roman Warm Period from 250 BC to 400 might say “frigus quam praesens placere” or “cooler than the present please”.
During the Islamic Golden Age of expansion, 622-750AD, They might argue the temperature was “just right” for them.
In the Medieval Warm Period, from about AD 950 to 1250, when humanity started to thrive, they would probably say the porridge was “just right”.
Right after that, the Vikings in Greenland would probably have asked
Onan Odin for some extra warmth.
During the Little ice Age, from 1300-1850 it would seem certain most people would ask for it to be warmer, especially since it had such a well documented negative effect on human history.
As for now for 1850 to present? Well, it just safe to call it the tail end of the Holocene Climatic Optimum although some people think it is too warm and are actively campaigning to reduce Earth’s temperature.
After thinking about how those previous civilizations in time might perceive their preferred temperature, and thinking about Kurt’s question, I realized that it might very well be an intractable problem, aka the Gordian Knot:
“Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter”
(Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47)
Or as Dr. Judith Curry once remarked to Congress:
Climate change can be categorized as a “wicked problem.”
As to the answer to Kurt’s question, the best answer I can offer would be this:
A temperature at which the widely geographically varied and widely climate adapted human civilizations and cultures can go about their lives without undue hardship.
But what is that optimum “just right” temperature numerically? Well, first it is a local-versus-global problem. A local temperature suitable for the Eskimos isn’t likely to be suitable for the indigenous people of the Amazon. Second, it is a question of global average.
The average temperature of the Earth is said to have been and is:
Between 1961 and 1990, the annual average temperature for the globe was around 57.2°F (14.0°C), according to the World Meteorological Organization.
In 2011, the global temperature was about 0.74°F (0.41°C) above that long-term average, according to the WMO’s estimates.
So if we are to accept those numbers, our current global temperature is 57.2 + 0.7 = 57.9°F
Between 1961 and the present, Earth’s human population has gone from 3 billion to 7 billion, more than doubling, and in that time the global temperature changed only 0.7F according to UCAR/NCAR. Given the population growth, you could say that slight temperature rise has increased the human condition to a more favorable environment.
But, honestly, I don’t think the global temperature matters much in the scheme of things, because despite gloom and doom predictions of global warming to kill millions by 2030, the projections are still upwards:
I think it is science and adaptation that matters more than global temperature:
So probably, the best path forward from here is to shrug our shoulders at global warming, and to simply adapt, as mitigation (given the performance we’ve seen from current schemes to reduce Earth’s temperature) will be a true Gordian knot that will likely bankrupt us in the process.
Besides, our current warming from posited greenhouse gas effects may actually be helpful to us, because in climatic terms, there’s this maxim of mine:
If you don’t like the Earth’s climate, just wait a millennium.
And that is not too far ahead it seems, E.M Smith writes in Annoying Lead Time Graph
This graph from TheInconvenientSkeptic bothers me.
It bothers me because of what it says.
What it says, by two different modes of reading, is that we have no business being warm right now…
Click to enlarge