Monday, April 1, 2019

60 Minutes show on climate change

Part of Sunday's (March 31) CBS's 60 Minutes was about climate change in the Arctic Circle. The Russian geophysicist Sergey Zimov has lived there for many years. He is best known for his theory that human over-hunting of large herbivores during the Pleistocene or Ice Age, which ended about 11,700 years ago, caused Siberia's grassland-steppe ecosystem to disappear and for raising awareness as to the important roles permafrost and thermokarst lakes play in the global carbon cycle (link).

The following are excerpts from the 60 Minutes show.

"Sergey Zimov told us when man became the main predator, the woolly mammoth and other large grazers were hunted to extinction. Forest replaced grasslands and that made Siberia vulnerable to a warming climate. Because trees trap more heat than grass. And winter temperatures of 40-below can't freeze the permafrost if there are no herds of animals to trample the insulating snow."

"This is a warning to the world because organic matter in the permafrost, plants and animals, has been frozen for hundreds of thousands of years. As it thaws, microbes consume that organic matter and release carbon dioxide and methane, greenhouse gases which contribute to a warmer climate."

"Scientists estimate there is more greenhouse gas in permafrost than in all of the world's remaining oil, natural gas and coal."

I have seen graphics that allegedly show the magnitude of temperature changes in the past few decades in different regions of the globe such as this one.  The temperatures differences are for only one day, but they are quite persistent. The biggest changes are in or near the Arctic Circle. Narratives about melting polar ice caps and glaciers and shrinking polar bear habitats are numerous.  The typical alarmist narrative is that warming anywhere is caused by humans burning fossil fuels and only that. Other possible causes are flippantly dismissed.

What I found interesting about the 60 Minutes show is what it did not say or even acknowledge. The cause of the melting permafrost according to Zimov is (1) human activity long before humans began burning fossil fuels, and (2) microbes producing greenhouse gases, not humans burning fossil fuels. Intentional or not, the 60 Minutes show omitted saying anything that challenges the typical alarmist narrative.

The Dakota Free Press ("South Dakota's True Liberal Media") exemplifies the typical alarmist narrative. Referring to the 60 Minutes show, the author says, "If we don’t take our foot off the gas, we’ll melt the Siberian permafrost, and then climate change will really accelerate" (link). Huh? Did the author simply hear only what he wanted to hear? He even quotes Zimov saying that the greenhouse gases are being produced by microbes. He ignores it (an inconvenient truth?) and leaps to the conclusion that the warming is caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

Another curious thing about the graphic of regional temperature changes linked above is the United States. Most of the USA is colored blue, indicating a drop in temperature. If the USA burns more fossil fuels per capita than most other countries, it seems the temperature drop is counter to the typical alarmist narrative.

See here for more about regional differences in CO2 concentrations.


  1. "Typical alarmist narrative is a bit of a turn-off for me -- but this is a worthwhile read. Would you mind if I added this to the interminable OL thread at Friends and Foes?

  2. Okay by me. But I plan to post links on OL to my recent blog posts anyway.