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The long summer

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William B Stoecker: Today we are bombarded by the government and the media with claims that due to our production of carbon dioxide, the world will soon end. We are led to believe that our puny efforts can significantly alter the climate of our entire planet. In reality, we are completely at the mercy of vast forces over which we have no control. Ice ages come and go due to a complex interaction of purely natural forces and events, including Earth’s axial wobble and changes in its orbit, and changes in solar activity. In between ice ages there are warm, wet periods (when the Earth is warmer there is more evaporation of seawater, and, hence, more clouds and more precipitation overall) and cold, dry periods. And there are sudden, planet-wide-catastrophes like mega volcanoes, asteroid and comet impacts, and mega-tsunamis caused by massive, undersea landslides. The mega volcanoes can change the weather; it is suspected that the super eruption of the Indonesian volcano Toba in 73,500 B.P. (before the present) may have triggered the last full-fledged ice age, although other factors almost certainly played a role. Another Indonesian volcano, Tambora, erupted in 1815, leading to “the year without a summer” at a time when the climate was already cooler than usual. And climatic changes can also cause sudden catastrophes like mega tsunamis caused as ice ages end and lakes of glacial meltwater break through ice dams and rush downstream into the sea.

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