The White House ended its climate change campaign in Alaska this week, culminating 11 days of rhetoric blaming anthropogenic global warming on glacial retreat in order to gain support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s expensive, burdensome and unconstitutional Clean Power Plan. But on what evidence does the president blame human-induced CO2, rather than natural variations in climate, for causing the retreat of the glaciated areas around Glacier Bay?
Glacier Bay is a complex system of fjords in southeast Alaska that has experienced rapid Arctic melt over the last 250 years. According to the United States Geological Survey, Glacier Bay was entirely glaciatedprior to the 1700s as a direct result of a “Little Ice Age.” By 1750 the “Age” ended and the glacier begun its retreat.
Though scholars still debate the issue, recent evidence indicates that Sir Francis Drake may have been the first explorer to venture into southeast Alaska, between 1577-79. Historians believe that Drake intentionally misdirected Spanish explorers by mis-recording latitudes by as much as 10 degrees in order to keep his discoveries secret.
Topographical matching of his recorded maps and notes coupled with accurate latitudes show that Drake’s farthest point north was the Chatham Straight. There, records indicate thick icebergs and glaciers blocked his path further north, forcing Drake to turn back south.
In 1794, more than 200 years after Drake’s expedition, Captain Vancouver, who until recently was considered the first explorer to reach Glacier Bay, found the Icy Straight that lies directly south of the Bay, entirely choked with ice. Shocked by reports of the radical glacial melt occurring less than a century after Vancouver’s expedition, Sierra Club Founder John Muir set out for Glacier Bay to see the region and melt himself. Once there, Muir found the massive Glacier had retreated more than 48 miles up the bay.
Just 35 years after Muir’s expedition, the glacier’s face had retreated another 17 miles.
Though the EPA and the White House would have you believe that glacial melt is a result of human development over the last 60 years, this natural phenomenon is not novel, nor is it caused by man-made carbon dioxide.
The largest recorded increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide occurred in the early 1900s — when the industrial revolution really caught fire in Europe and America, and 150 years after Glacier Bay began its retreat. Paleoclimatologists, who study climate change throughout the entirety of earth’s history, have shown that over the span of millions of years the earth’s glaciers have been involved in a pattern of progression and recession totally apart from any human development.
Yet, Americans will hear that global warming is almost entirely anthropogenic; that sea levels are rising as a result of glacial melt; that the world is on the brink of calamity; and that since people are the problem, we must be the solution.
That solution? Capitulation to the Clean Power Plan, and as a result of the plan, utility bills that will double or even triple current rates, rampant grid instability and land invasive renewable energies. The payoff, we’re told, is a reduction in global temperatures by an estimated — not guaranteed — 0.018 degrees Celsius.
Glacier Bay has experienced the largest amount of glacial retreat in recorded history — over a span of time that predates the largest increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and modern climate alarmism.
Yet, the administration’s climate change policy is predicated on the assumption that Americans will not do simple research, and will instead unthinkingly accept what they are told.
Leigh Thompson is a policy analyst with the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.