Essentially, it is a systems theory that sees systems that are apparently disorganized (that is unpredictable because of the large amount of variables) as systems that do have order, it is just complex and we need to find it. Some call it the butterfly effect due to that the flapping of a butterfly's wings in China might have an effect on Peru's weather. Even the most sophisticated computers cannot analyze the number of variables that are needed to predict climate or weather. Thus, our task is to uncover more robust data and analysis systems that can take variables like industrialization, automobiles, large fields of grain, large herds of cattle, etc. And plug into a model that makes sense ("Chaos Theory, " n.d.)
What are the implications of the results of this study?
Clearly, the implications of the study are twofold: more data needs to be analyzed prior to making any gross judgment about the problem and the parameters are perhaps too small to make meaningful conclusions.
Can you link any of the climate trends to human agency?
It is often because environmental and ecological issues are so very apparent that they are often at the forefront of discussions revolving around the impact of globalism. These paradigms range from the alarmist viewpoint that believes the planet is already doomed -- both from a global warming and resource standpoint and the earth's inability to sustain human's growing population. A more pragmatic side, however, sees that intervention is necessary, conferences like the Copenhagen Summit vital, and dialog critical to ensuring humans are on a path towards greater sustainability. Nowhere is this debate more virulent ecologically than with the concept of global warming.
Global warming advocates believe that because of the Industrial Revolution and resultant amounts of carbon dioxide placed into the atmosphere because of automation, the Earth's average temperature is rising, and projected to continue to rise. The reason for this issue being a central paradigm for the ecological consequences of globalism is complex, but essentially focuses on the fact that the developing world is at a different cycle of technological wisdom and, through their push to industrialize, places less value on long-term ecological effects than in rapid economic growth. Add to this the number of factories and automobiles in the developed world and we note that weather patterns carry pollutants all across the globe. If the adherents to the global warming theory area correct, most of the noticeable warming will first be noticed in the polar regions, which will cause ice to melt and sea levels to rise. This will also change the amount and pattern of global precipitation, extreme weather events, some species extinction, and of course, drastic changes in agricultural yields (Hegerl, 2007, 665-712).
The difficulty with predicting climate change arises with the current level of modeling. Despite sophisticated super computers that can process millions of bits of data at one time, climate is so complex that it almost defies concrete representations. Scientists rely on fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and a host of complex mathematical formulas, and certainly attempt to include as many processes as possible. However, since complete and accurate data is lacking prior to the 20th century, models of climate and macro-geological changes are not always accurate. The models do show that, when using 20th century data, warming is the end result from the interaction of greenhouse gases with geological processes on Earth (Lanza, 2000, 8-64).
Thanks to increased media attention, and the efforts of people like former Vice President Al Gore, the increased publicity of scientific theories of global warming continues to stir political and economic debate -- some of it quite virulent (Weart, 2003-2009).
Scientific discussions now became entangled with fierce political debates over scientific uncertainty and the costs of regulating greenhouse gases. It was not until around 2005 that American media reported clearly that scientists had resolved the controversy, while films and ominous weather events gave citizens a better idea of what global warming might mean. The majority of Americans (except on the political right) had moved gradually to a vague feeling that some kind of action should be taken. Stronger worries had grown among people in most other countries, and among many thoughtful policy-makers in the United States itself (Ibid.)
The geopolitical debate results from the great divide that still exists between the developed and developing world. It is the developing world that is most at risk due to threats of global warming (less water, fewer areas of agricultural land, at risk for starvation, single item economies, etc.). When previous summits met, for instance Kyoto, some of these developing countries were exempted from the same standards as the developed world, causing a lack of cohesiveness. For example, the United States believes that if the developed world is to bear much of the costs regarding ecological clean up and technological innovation to prevent global warming, emerging countries like China and India should be expected to constrain their emissions -- particularly since China's CO2 emissions now exceed those of the United States. China and India contend that they are less obligated to reduce emissions quickly because the West had a longer period of development and that its per capital "carbon footprint" is far less than the U.S. -- of course bringing in the entire argument about population control and responsibility (Brahic, 2007).
Of course, public awareness of global warming is much higher in developed countries -- Japan and Finland show almost everyone is aware of the situation; compared with fewer than 20% of the population in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact:
Respondents who reported knowing something or a great deal about global warming were asked about their views on the causes of global warming. Their responses reveal that public knowledge of the concept of global warming is not the same thing as the public belief that global warming is a result of human activities.
For example, Latin Americans are in the middle of the international pack in overall awareness of global warming. However, focusing on people who say they know about global warming, Latin Americans lead the world in the belief that rising temperatures across the globe (a part of global warming) are a result of human activity. In fact, 13 of the top 20 countries where more people believe global warming is a result of human activities are in Latin America (Pelham, 1).
Whether or not the facts focusing on the consequences of global warming are indisputable or not, debates still arise regarding limiting industrial emissions and slowing down the rate of development for the Third World. How fair is it, the developing countries posit, that the developed world has had over 200 years to develop its economic structure without environmental regulation, and now that the developing world is poised to grow, new rules are placed upon those countries. Still others emphasize that the world has changed, and that 21st century ideas, communications, and above all, economic alignment, are such that it is impossible to operate within a vacuum (Weiss, 2009).
Still others in both the scientific and political communities dispute much of the global warming data, saying that there is not enough historical data to definitively prove whether human activity has significantly altered the earth's climate. In addition, this group sees the earth as being far more resilient in dealing with human activity -- and that the warming/cooling cycles, the changes in macro-currents (El Nino, La Nina), and the grown and diminishing of certain populations, is all part of the natural, longer, cycle of nature ("Climate Change Science," 2001).
If the trends continue in their current direction, what are the potential implications for people living in the Wabash Watershed?
If the data sets continue, the micro climate of the Wabash Watershed may change; less moisture available for agriculture, a potential change, over time, with the biome; species migrating or becoming extinct, and quality of life changes.
Does the data presented tell us anything, positively or negatively, about global warming theory?
As we have seen, the data shows that this type of analysis requires complex and vast amounts of data, and that it is somewhat dangerous to take what might be a miniscule trend, and make it a generalization. See the discussion on "linking human agencies to the problem" for more information.
REFERENCES and WORKS CONSULTED
Brahic, C. (April 2007). "China's Emissions Shall Pass…" The New Scientist.