From Noah to Nordhaus via Inhofe

US Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is a climate change sceptic primarily because he believes God has promised not to flood the Earth again; and the rainbow in the sky tells him it must be true. Such ideologically-driven wilful blindness is very dangerous. Indeed, most climate scientists agree that it threatens the future of most life on Earth. Sadly, such ideological blindness is not unique to those foolish enough to believe the Earth was created in 6 days only 6,000 years ago. As Stephan Lewandowsky et al have pointed out, adherence to libertarian ideology and free market economics are strongly correlated with a rejection of the scientific consensus that humans are the primary cause of post-Industrial climate change. Pseudo-skeptics may have attempted to discredit this research but, they cannot refute the empirical evidence for the above correlation. Indeed, in his book Poles Apart: The international reporting of climate scepticism, James Painter provides ample evidence that climate change ‘scepticism’ is predominantly a feature of right-wing newspapers in English-speaking countries. However, I digress from the story I want to tell… It is no secret that stories of a global flood, like that of Noah and his Ark, are found in the earliest writings of numerous ancient civilisations around the World. Until yesterday, however, I had no idea what this might have to do with an abrupt but temporary global cooling event, known as the Younger Dryas, which occurred between 11,500 and 12,900 years ago. This came to my attention yesterday morning while watching television, when the presenters of BBC Breakfast began interviewing a journalist I had never heard of before. For at least 20 years, Graham Hancock has, apparently, being telling anyone that would listen that a comet impact in Antarctica about 12,000 years ago – and the sudden sea level rise it caused – wiped out most evidence of an advanced human civilisation that predates any of the others by about 5,000 years. In doing some research on this yesterday, I discovered that this was something that the Huffington Post had picked up on in May this year. However, digging a little deeper, I found that it is over 5 years since Hancock’s ‘smoking gun’ evidence was reported in the Scientific American magazine. It would therefore appear that Hancock is very good at self publicity and recycling old news. Even so, I nearly choked on my breakfast when Hancock suggested that the Giant Sphinx at Gaza was not built by the Egyptians. He pointed out that the Sphinx appears much more weathered (by rainfall) than the in-situ stone on the pyramids around it. However, the real clincher for his argument was the fact that organic material – which can be carbon dated – found at the Gobekli Tepe site in Turkey is about 12,000 years old. This is significant because all other early civilisations – that left behind monumental architecture – are thought to date from no more than 7,000 ago. This has long been a mystery that archaeologists could not explain, but which is explained by the comet impact. However, again as a result of research I did yesterday, I was amazed to find out that suggesting a comet impact might explain the origins of the story of Noah’s Ark was not just Hancock’s idea. It is one that can be traced all the way back to Edmund Halley in 1694, as blogger Jason Colavito pointed out in his summary of Graham Hancock at the end of last year. So, Graham Hancock has used his skills as an investigative journalist to pull together evidence from different spheres of science to solve the archaeological mystery of Gobekli Tepe. Therefore, given the amount of criticism he received 20 years ago for putting forward an idea with no supporting evidence, it is perhaps understandable that he is now making so much of the fact that the evidence has since been found. However, even if the idea was not really his in the first place, I think this explanation for the Younger Dryas event is important because it highlights the fact that the vast majority of modern human civilisation is in danger of being wiped off the face of the Earth if large amounts of land-based ice slide into the sea. Sadly, those who continue to dispute that this might happen – and/or assert that Antarctica is actually cooling – have picked a fight with science and history that they are bound to lose. On what basis do I say this, you may well wonder. Well, for the record, here are two good reasons: 1. It is impossible to explain the totality of post-Industrial warming without acknowledging that the dominant factor is the 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 caused by the burning of fossil fuels (see also Fig 5 in Hansen et al 2007 below). 2. Although the interior of Antarctica may be cooling – and the sea ice around it may not be shrinking because of the huge expanse of the surrounding Southern Ocean – the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Antarctic peninsula are amongst the fastest-warming places on the planet.

Fig 5. in Hansen et al (2007), 'Climate simulations for 1880-2003 with GISS modelE'. Clim. Dyn., 29, 661-696

Fig 5. in Hansen et al (2007), ‘Climate simulations for 1880-2003 with GISS modelE’. Clim. Dyn., 29, 661-696

To conclude, I can do no better than to refer, once again, to the six reasons put forward by the formerly-sceptical economist William D. Nordhaus as to ‘Why the global Warming Skeptics are Wrong‘. —- 10 Sept 2015 (15:00 BST): With apologies for any confusion caused, this blog post has now been edited to remove repetition and ambiguity resulting from my hasty/poor proof-reading of the original.


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Civilisation, Climate Science, Cognitive Dissonance, Denial, Environment, Fossil Fuels, Mass Extinctions, Palaeoclimatology, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to From Noah to Nordhaus via Inhofe

  1. Thomas Foster says:

    I have it on good authority that, if one is concerned about anything affecting this world or the next, even, all one has to do is to pray to some mysterious being, who has never shown himself – (can he really be that deformed?) – who inhabits the higher or empyrean regions of the universe! So, there we have it; believe and all will be well. So simple. I have read the latest theory regarding the age of the sphinx several years ago in a book by a french archaeologist. Have any geologists corroborated his assumptions since then? And remains of early civilisation at Gobekli Tepe are hardly proof of the elimination of all human cultures at this date, is it? I am neither archaeologist nor meteorologist / climatologist but am merely trying to make sense of the enormous and often conflicting amounts of “evidence”, which are showered upon my hoary head. I prefer to accept scientific evidence above all others. Theories are all very well but without proof, evidence and substantiation they should be treated with healthy or even unhealthy scepticism.


    • Rick Altman says:

      Welcome back, “Thomas”. Apologies for the delayed moderation. Thanks for confirming my suspicion that Hanckock’s assertions about the Sphinx are not new – and not solely his. The most relevant part of the Wikipedia page on the Sphinx mentions a French archaeologist, who dissents only slightly from the mainstream view. Bizzarely, given what he himself said on the TV this week, Hancock: (a) is named as one of those with a widely different view based on the alignment of the pyramids with constellations of stars; and (b) is not named in connection with the ‘weathering’ argument for an older Sphinx. It also turns out that (b) has been widely criticised: Nevertheless: (1) artefacts at Gobelki Tepe have been found to be much older than those at any other site anywhere in the World; (2) sudden climatic and sea level changes associated with the Younger Dryas could quite easily have destroyed almost all evidence for non-nomadic societies in coastal areas (i.e. in flat areas with fertile soils); and (3) firm evidence has now been found for a comet impact having caused both changes.


  2. pendantry says:

    This article would benefit from a further edit to remove a red herring: whose idea it is, and how good a self-publicist that person might be, is totally irrelevant. The important question — one unlikely to be unswerable given the elapsed time — is whether the sphinx is, or is not, older than our current understanding believes it to be. Not that it matters, but I believe that the sphinx is far more likely to be 12000 years old than 7000; but that is pure conjecture, mostly based upon observation of the self-centered selfishness of our (so-called) civilization.


    • Rick Altman says:

      Thanks, Pendantry. I think the argument about the age of the Sphinx is an interesting one but not a critical determining factor for assessing Hancock’s claims.


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