For long holiday tourism has been in the grip of economic thinking and sociological research. On this webpage a more balanced view is maintained on the focal centre of tourists' activities: tourists themselves and their encounter with their holiday destination. Tourists take what is given to them and then turn it into their own ends; it is these ends what is of our primary interest and more than 25 articles on this site are about just that: the tourists' tourism.

Under the heading "Tourism" a new article has been added on Climate Change (July, 2020)

and also under the heading "Tourism" I have added a new article about Phenomenology and Tourism (Feb. 2020).


Climate Change: Myths, Facts & Questions

All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source

The present article was developed in collaboration with P. Dercksen, MSc.; M. Th. Baayen, MSc. and F.van Sluijs, Ir., whose observations and help contributed enormously to the content and quality of this article.

1. Introduction

 The present article on the subject of global warming and climate change in general arose from an observed confusion of contradictory publications, ambivalent environmental policies, questionable international agreements and popular climate theories with its supporters and opponents, creating serious doubts on what really is happening to our world. Temperatures in the atmosphere are on the rise and it seems that scientists, experts, politicians and the public in general have been able to notice this phenomenon for the last fifty years or so. The planet’s climate changes continuously, which is another of the few statements we can be sure about, although the reasons behind it and its functionality with regards to global warming is still under investigation and discussion. This holds true even more for the question to what extent the human being can influence this rise in temperature and manage it through regulating its CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, which has led to extensive and even vehement debates.

As part of a series of conversations among friends with different backgrounds and interests, we arrived at the basic questions: How important is the role of the human being in climate change? In search for answers we started to researching the Internet on these issues, which resulted in an intriguing journey full of surprises, contradictions, manipulations to the point that it became clear, that there are no simple explications or solutions. What did become clear is that our climate system is non-linear, chaotic with feedbacks, which makes it about impossible to forecast even tomorrow’s weather.

2. The most important themes

The most relevant themes on climate change can be divided into four approaches, which will be presented below and further on a summary and some tentative conclusions will be presented (only the most relevant websites are mentioned):

2.1 Climate and global warming

The first theme we approached concerns the Earth’s global warming as a phenomenon, its grade, behaviour and the mechanisms that regulate it.

During the holocene when the last glacial period finished (some 12.000 years ago) the planet entered an interglacial era, whereby temperatures gradually increased without following a straight upwards line, but showing ups and downs (Paul A. Mayewski et al., 2004) For example in Europe, there occurred a much warmer period during the Roman empire, there was a short cold period between 1300 – 1400 and some warmer peaks around the 1650s, 1770 and 1850 (D.J. Easterbrook). The set of factors that contributes to the changes of global average temperatures are not only related to the planet itself, but also to the universe. Among others we can mention solar spots, changes in the the Earth’s axis towards the sun, thermal oceanic currents, the reflection of radiation on the Earth’s surface or the greenhouse gases (Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología, 2004). Additionnally, the climate represents a non-linear chaotic system with feedbacks that, because of its complexity, makes any forecast extremely difficult; in other words there are still many pieces in the puzzle that we do not know about.

What has become clear is, that the changes in temperature of the Earth and its atmosphere are due to many different causes and do not just depend on CO2 concentrations, but in fact are regulated by a series of factors that serve as either positive or negative feedback factors that are difficult to calculate. For example, the function of water vapor and the clouds is still under investigation, and the same holds true for the factors related to snow and ice. Another example is the role that ocean currents have in transporting heat between the two poles (the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation AMOC and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation PDO), whose influence in relation to the climate and the changes of climate zones seems to have been underestimated, even regarding the poles. In spite of the fact that at the poles higher air temperatures have been measured, that does not seem to be the real problem, but rather the temperatures of the marine currents, which can be appreciated in Judith Curry’s(2017) summary. Related to the ocean issue there other phenomena that influence the climate, such as it is the case with El Niño and La Niña that have caused draughts or excessive rainfalls in some parts. (Piskozub, J. and Gutowska, D. 2014). The current reasons for changes in temperature and in general the climate’s behaviour are not at all clear so far. For example, the Swiss glacier expert Christian Schlüchter (2011) showed that during the holocene important temperature changes occurred. In the case of the glaciers he discovered that their length changed considerably over larger periods and that there were even changes in the timberline (see Schlüchter). What can be established therefore is, that the climate is changing, that there is currently a tendency towards global warming and that these data in fact do not show anything new, since in the far past the planet experienced even more drastic changes.

After these general points on the climate, we shall now introduce the human actor on the globlal stage.

2.2 Climate and Man

The second important issue is about the extent in which the human being through his actions can wield influence on the Earth‘s climate and on which levels. Deforestation or elevated CO2 emissions are two examples, whereby man seems to influence parts of climate development. The question of the role CO2 emissions has been studied for more than a hundred years and especially from the 1980s onwards this specific interest has increased considerably, not only in scientific circles, but even more so on political levels (see section 2.4).

Reviewing the extensive number of publications on global warming, what stands out is, that the discussions on CO2′s effects on the climate dominate the debates, opinions and the controversies. The influence of this greenhouse gas has been heavily contested, first of all for its level of influence, then for its sources and the role of each and finally for the way the issue has been introduced on political and economic levels (see section 2.4).

When the sun light penetrates the atmosphere, the earth absorbs this solar light (short wave radiation), warms up and then emits energy in the form of long wave infra-red radiation. The greenhouse effect occurs, when the latter enters the atmosphere and is absorbed by greenhouse gases, which in turn are heated up and consequently emit this radiation in all directions and therefore some parts return to the earth. However this effect contributes mostly to the heating of the atmosphere, while the energy that accumulates on the earth’s surface is subject to the process of convection of the surface air and makes it rise to higher layers in the atmosphere. The warmer air permits the increase of water vapor in the air, which in turn functions as a positive feedback and permits an additionaal increase in temperature. On the other hand, when humid air rises to the level that it reaches the point of saturation, it starts raining, which means a loss of energy and a reduction of the temperature. That is why there are doubts if this process leads to a positive feedback or not. In the first place it is important to measure and monitor the changes in temperature in the atmosphere. The Earth‘s different surfaces (humid or dry) have there own characteristics. The water of the oceans warms up very slowly, while the earth’s dry surfaces heat up much faster, but lose that energy just as fast once the heating source – sunlight or hot air – disappears.

Apart from the CO2, there are more factors influencing in one way or another the development of the climate, such as it is the case with water vapor, that constitutes the major part of greenhouse gases and its levels depend, among others, on the Earth’s forests. Urban heating is another factor that plays a role, although sufficient data as well as research on these specific details are still lacking.

As one can see, there are a number of factors, that influence the climate system on many different levels, as it it is the case with the forementioned ocean currents. What we want to know how decisive human influence is on the climate and more specifically, if man through his actions can have a direct influence on it.

2.3 Human Beings and Climate

The third theme that came up in our conversations aswell as in our Internet searches is the form in which human intervention influences climate (anthropogenic influence) and to what extent mankind can change its negative or positive influences on climate and more specifically on global warming, although it may not always be clear what effects and consequences they cause.

What one has to keep in mind is, that this theme opens the way for another discussion dealing with the influence people can have on their environment. It seems that the media in general tend to link the notion of climate to that of the environment and even worse, sometimes it is suggested that there might exist a direct relationship between the two, while it has to be clear that any influence the climate wields on the environment and vice versa are indirect ones, since it is about two non-linear systems which both are continuously subject to feedback processes.

Let us take the case of CO2, that produces both desirable and harmful effects. CO2 is of vital importance for vegetation in general and an increase with regards to its content in the atmosphere helps plants grow and partially explains why the worlds green areas have increased during the last decades. The CO2 produced by industrial activities forms part of the so-called greenhouse gases, of which water vapor is the most important. The effects of these gases on the atmosphere form also part of the complex climate system. During the past 400.000 years or so (a time span that includes four glacial periods) the CO2 content maintained itself around 280-300 particles per million (ppm), which is low, when we consider that the minimum to secure life on earth is 150 ppm.(see geology.utah.gov.). During earlier periods this figure was much higher.

Moreover, one has to take into account that for horticulture, for example, the ideal CO2 content level should be al least 1.000 ppm (as managed in the glasshouse industry). Right now the content level is about 400 ppm. One important point in the CO2 discussion is to what extent CO2 is responsible for the increase of global temperatures. As early as 1896 the scientist Arrhenius  had calculated that when the CO2 content is multiplied by 2 the global temperature might increase by 1 degree and see for example Nicholas Lewis, Judith A. Curry (2014).

There is still much to be investigated to get a better knowledge on how these systems really work, whereby we have to realize that anthropogenic CO2 emissions form about 4,5% of all CO2 circulating around the globe. Furthermore, the importance of water vapor is generally underestimated and specifically in relation with its influence on the Earth surface temperatures. This points, among others, at the tremenduous damage deforestation causes for the environmental hydric management (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies,2018).

Obviously all countries have to react to the threats imposed by a slowly changing climate and to respond to the calls for preventive measures in the first place. The measures to be considered concern the increase of sea levels (although this phenomenon has also other causes, such as tectonic movements), large periods of droughts or excessive rainfall, or the strength of hurricanes, although the IPCC (see section 2.4) indicated, that there frequency diminished a little. The reasons why more extreme wheather types are occurring include a wide variety of possible explanations, e.g. see Christopher H. O’Reilly, Tim Woollings, and Laure Zanna

The increasing urbanization on world level also plays an important role and apart from increased CO2 levels wields also a series of other influences.

However, there still reigns uncertainty, if all efforts to diminish CO2 emissions in the end have a positive outcome or not – also depending on what we see as being positive.

2.4 The Earth’s climate and what we do with it

The fourth theme is of a different nature and relates to the society’s attitudes, decisions and policies with respect to climate change and environmental management. The case is, that large parts of the debate on climate change are not so much based on scientific facts and verifiable data, but rather touch upon political and economic issues, short and midterm planning and increasingly on financial levels and dealing with direct decision making. In other words for the information generated by scientists to reach the general public, it passes through a series of filters, such as political interpretations, financial interests or the press, which may cause distortions, changes or omissions in relation to the original information. For example, Maurice Strong warned already some time ago that life styles had to change to less damaging consumption patterns with regards to the environment. Strong became the first president of the UN Environmental Programme, whose main focal points were air pollution, the termination of fossil fuels and the role of CO2.

From this initiative the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was developed in 1988, whose mission was to provide an objective and science-based opinion on climate change, its impacts with their natural and economic risks, and possible reactions to them. So, from the very start IPCC’s task was to generate specific information as support for decision-making processes as far as climate change concerned and man’s influence on it. In 2007, the Nobel peace prize was granted in equal parts to the IPCC and the US former vice-president Al Gore.

The IPCC is first of all a political institution and its reporting is based on the research of many highly specialized scientists. However, over the years many of them realized, that their contributions were hardly used at all in IPCC’s publications. Criticism led to some corrections in IPCC’s reporting in 2010, and emphasis was put on the institution’s capacity to maintain a transparent and wide coverage of scientific viewpoints as well as improving general data gathering procedures.

During the past fifty years and after the publication of the Club of Rome Report (q189) that warned about the environmental problems confronting us, a series of forecasts were launched, which in the end turned out to be incorrect, such as the case that fossil fuels would run out by 2020 (q227). Another example are some figures published by the IPCC that were way higher than the ones published by universities around the globe. Under influence of the IPCC the term Global Warming was changed into Climate Change with emphasis on the role of mankind in this change. That is to say the climate issue was changed into a case that concerned not just heavy industry, wars or the excessive use of cars. In practice it meant that the basis was laid for establishing a direct connection between environment and climate suggesting that both are heavily influenced by the anthropogenic actions. The link that climate had to connect with the environment was specificly the CO2 emissions, that were presented as the main cause of global warming and at the same time could be controlled by human beings. Billions of dollars had to be invested to neutralize or at least diminish CO2 emissions. For many years now international organizations on political (e.g. UN, EU) and financial levels (e.g. WB, IMF) have given exclusive priority to any initiative related to climate change, to the extent, that they started to talk about a “climate crisis”. With this crisis emphasis was put on the capacity to mitigate the effects of this crisis, while blaming malpractice and inefficient management as from the 19th century onwards. Thus it is about risk and damage management, early warning systems, capacity of and adaptation to recuperation to justify the inversions that the global financial system needs to safeguard its continuation. That is to say the so-called climate crisis createdthe opportunity for financial and political involvement and results of scientific climate investigations were interpreted that way.

3. Global Warming: myths, facts, and questions

Our search on the Internet led us along winding roads through non-linear and chaotic systems, that make any forecast of climate development in the future a tricky business. We looked into the relation between climate and global warming, then at the reciprocal influence between climate and human beings and also in the way the enormous amount of information is used in the press and in social media, on political as well as economic levels.

There exist a series of arguments either in favour or against the different positions to approach the issue of climate change. Following a summary of the most important points we encountered:

1. It seems obvious that the climate changes since this is inherent in its own system; during this interglacial era there exists a tendency for global temperatures to rise, although during the past thousand years there have been marked fluctuations for reasons that are still not quite clear.

2. Apart from this moderate increase in average temperature (within the range of 1-2 degrees centigrade during the past hundred years), a bigger increase can be expected. The question is, if the increase of CO2 content in the atmosphere (from a level of 280 ppm at the end of the 19th century up to 400 ppm nowadays), actually contributes actively to the increase of global temperatures. Our search on the Internet has left us with the impression, that there does exist an influence in this sense, but just in a moderate way, especially since there does not exist a direct relationship between increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere and increase in global temperatures, but rather this influence is subject to a series of simultaneous occurrences, which has to be expected in a typical non-linear chaotic system. Moreover, CO2 is only one of various greenhouse gases.

3. Human influence on the climate exists and certainly on the level of gas emissions, such as CO2, but not only that, there are also the issues of forest management (de/reforestation), water and air pollution and in general environmental management. This concerns first of all the quality of life, but also influences the climate, although because of the complexity of climate systems this influence is not well defined in terms of effects or consequences. Therefore it is important to stress that climate is one thing, but its influences on the environment encloses a different set of issues.

4. It has become clear, that the scientific results from the various universities around the world do not point in just one direction, but often can be interpreted differently, which may lead to internal debates in the scientific world. In turn this may lead to different interpretations on political, economic, media or environmental levels and therefore may depend on who is interpreting them.

Related to this theme the gap between political interpretations and the development of independent scientific research has even widened. It may be a coincidence that whenin these post-capitalist times with accelerated globalization and changing international finance structures, suddenly climate change is also accelerating. However, indicators point at an arrangement to suit an economic re-activation based on huge climate crisis investments. According to the independent organization Climate Intelligence (CLINTEL) there does not exist a climate emergency and they emphasize the importance that climate science should be less political oriented, while climate policies should be more scientificly based.

We have encountered a series of facts and noticed some myths - in the sense of what the public in general believes without being scientifically based -, however in the end we are left with more questions than answers. One of them has to do with the reactions or answers on behalf of the representatives of religions or religious groups with regards to global warming. As far as we know from the Internet the official positions of world’s religious leaders towards possible measures that could be pushed on world level to alleviate the effect of greenhouse gases have been quite poor. This near silence on religious levels is about matched by two countries that provide together more than half of the world population: the Peoples Republic of China and India. On Internet level at least no massive campaign could be found to confront a so-called climate crisis, while on the level of the environment extensive programmes can be encountered, directed at mitigating harmful effects and in support of sustainable development. The importance of these observations lies in the fact that the term “global” may not necessarily refer to the entire world, but rather to the western world linked to a neoliberal-capitalist system.

Here we are actually questioning the political-economic influences that lead us to even more uncertainties. Additionally if we take into account the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020 and its profound influences on economies worldwide, it must be clear that the important players on the world scene such as the US, Russia, China and the EU will no longer give priority to climate change and will focus completely on savingtheir own economies from a possible collapse.

It must also be clear, that saving the environment as well as supporting a sustainable development in the struggle against poverty, hunger, racism, or gender inequality have been relegated on the world’s agendas to lower ranks. It is the developing world – the third world – that suffers most and it is clear, that they will need the enormous loans offered by the first world.

It seems, that the urgency to try to diminish global warming will lose its impulse, but what really should worry us are the environmental conditions that no longer can be subordinated to an economic development damagingnot only our environment, but to a certain extent even the planet’s climate.

The present article was developed in collaboration with P. Dercksen, MSc.; M. Th. Baayen, MSc. and F.van Sluijs, Ir., whose observations and help contributed enormously to the content and quality of this article.

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All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source

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