Will the Greenhouse Effect offset the Milankovitch cooling Model? Readers who've followed Gribbin's climatological predictions from Forecasting, Famines and Freezes
(1976) to What's Wrong with the Weather?
(1979) and The Death of the Sun
(1980) will find here much that's familiar—but also additional, contradictory factors to consider and new theories to evaluate. They'll again find, too, problems that defy analysis. In the book's first half, Gribbin discusses weather history, patterns, and predictions—taking into account such esoterica as negative feedback from the oceans, Hoyle's meteoric impact theory of the Ice Ages, solar flux and isolation, the geometry of the earth-sun system, atmospheric bomb testing, nitrous oxides, ozone, and man-made dust. Wisely, he avoids committing himself to any single theory, or set of theories, with one significant exception: the Milankovitch Model of Ice Age cycles—which shows that the weather of the last 50 years has been unusually warm and stable, and predicts another Ice Age in 4,000 years or less. The book's second half focuses, as guardedly, on the Greenhouse Effect. ("There may not be much of a problem there at all"—yet "there is still ample cause for concern.") In one camp are the computer-folk who build three-dimensional "General Circulation Models" that indicate dangerous warming trends (some 2.4° by 2025) from anthropogenic carbon dioxide; in the other camp, the empiricists who extrapolate from historical and other data and who predict minor warming (0.25 to 0.3°C). All these predictions, Gribbin notes, are hamstrung by our general ignorance (e.g., something is soaking up half the carbon dioxide man produces, but we have no idea what it is). And a prime factor in these calculations—fossil fuel consumption through 2025—is hotly debated by energy experts. As for the implications, the rich North would suffer from warming; the poor Third World would first undergo famine, then benefit; sea levels would rise; crop yields in the grain belt would drop; the cost of CO controls would be prohibitive. In the short run, however, colder, fluctuating weather will be the norm (MM over GE). The long-range outlook is anybody's guess. Dense in spots—but an invigorating exercise overall.
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