“What you do not know is the only thing you know.” T.S. Eliot
No apt words from this inadequate chronicler can define the Grand Canyon experience, and even photographers (like Rita) with a good eye are able only to approximate its dignity and intimation of eternity. Ten miles wide and a mile deep, coming to a human perspective is nigh on impossible, most certainly for a modest blogger.
The canyon as currently viewable was created by four distinct and necessary geological phases unequally spanning about one and one half billion years. The oldest layers are the deepest and the most recently exposed. “Recent” is a relative term for us mortals as geological time is similarly difficult to grasp.
The Grand Canyon’s one mile depth is ever changing and growing deeper at the geological fast track rate of about the thickness of a sheet of paper every year. The basement stone is one and one half miles deep, and a fraction is exposed. This schist or bedrock level sits above the earth’s mantle and was the first stage of the deposition phase of the canyon’s formation, which commenced 1.6 billion years ago or approximately half our weary old planet’s age. During this period, the land mass was covered by ocean with multiple volcanoes providing the entertainment. The slow aggregation of the one and a half mile depth of super-heated volcanic activity and magma spanned millennia.
Next up the canyon wall is shale that built up at the bottom of massive swamps after the ocean drained owing to cyclical temperature changes – shale that is clearly delineated greenish gray and relatively soft. Above this is four hundred feet of red tinted limestone that accrued over many thousands of years of calcium buildup from countless generations of bountiful bone and shell decaying after new temperature change brought back the ocean. Red is not limestone’s natural color, but it has been tinted from the iron rich runoff of the few hundred feet of Cocohino sandstone above it. Sandstone clearly shows the ripples of its wind driven drifting during the centuries of desert that formed when the oceans again left the area during yet another naturally occurring era when giant sand dunes were the landscape about 265 million years ago.
Above this is the cap layer of gray white limestone when once again climate altered and back flowed the ocean for millions of years. Another mile of various layers accumulated during the long deposition phase and various climate changes. These layers have over millions of years eroded or been scraped away by thousands of feet of glacial ice to expose the current rim of the canyon that lies about 6,900 feet above sea level.
Three more phases, all exactly necessary, followed, or there would be no canyon. The massive Pacific tectonic plate collided with the Continental plate, which possessed the hard and immovable bottom schist layer. The Pacific plate, unable to crush its way across the Continental dove under it, compelling it up thousands of feet. What had been at sea level, now rose several miles. The third phase saw more changes of climate, including Ice Ages. These new mountains spawned the Colorado River, flowing ever downward seeking the sea. Finally, wind and water erosion from the many tributaries, over eons, widened the river basin in the soft rock from the hundred feet or so of the river five miles out on each side. Fifteen hundred million years of widely diverse, cyclical climate change carved out a miracle.
“The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address 1961 (same address that cautioned the nation about the military/industrial complex). (Link to full address)
No rational person can be a climate change denier any more than a rational person could deny a heliocentric planetary system of which we are the third planet out. But let us consider that most people and many scientists believe ourselves to be living in the age of ultimate enlightenment, and that current theory is the final one. Archimedes, Newton, Galileo, Boyle and Einstein believed they had nailed down an understanding of nature, structures and how things worked, and all had made some asymptotic progress. But none of them had the final answer on Jeopardy.
The issues at hand: what is the current trend of inevitable climate change, what portion of that change is man caused, and what can or should we do to prepare for or mitigate it? A secondary question, and a critical one for those trying to formulate policy regarding climate change, is what bias exists among those ‘ologists’ studying the phenomena? When scientists tell us that the science is settled, they have ceased to be scientists and have become advocates. Their efforts are then spent proving what they have established to be true. Peer review becomes verification, dogma and evangelism.
Have they first defined, and then conformed to an ideological and political narrative? Have the data and statistics been bundled, and do their interpretation and resulting policy recommendations form a consistent drum beat? Unfortunately, there are dual beats, which are unalterably opposed and express a clear schism along political lines. Not a good setting to try and do the right thing or the effective thing, if indeed, there is such a policy to be found.
To oversimplify, the right tends to deny there is global warming, and if there is, it is within the limits of normal climate cycles. Even if it isn’t, what can we do about it, since the worst perpetrators of the CO2 and particulate emission are rapidly growing formerly third world economies that deeply resent former massive despoilers of the environment, who are now preaching with the fervor of recent converts. “We’ll inhibit our growth by layering on the costs of responsible energy policy when we’ve caught up to you who operated under the old rules while you grew your economy and lifestyle.” Or something like that.
For the left, which includes almost all of academia, current government policy makers and major media, global warming is established science, a panicked crisis, and the only solution is to lower carbon based energy source use precipitously through whatever draconian enforcement and rule making necessary. Economic consequences be damned. The data that is not reformulated to fit a model curve show that in the last decade the warming has leveled off, which conflicts with the models created by the very scientists who bang the drum. These models have failed utterly in predictive capability when put to the test. To jigger the measurements to conform to the models is a continuing, largely unreported scandal and justified by the perpetrators in tweaking the data to conform because, after all, the model must be right, and is for the greater good anyway.
Can we listen to Ike on this? Has money fatally infected science with an unholy predisposition? To wit: government bureaucracy, especially left leaning bureaucracy, has as its most sacred postulate a necessity to regulate and to metastasize. This amorphous, consuming blob through confiscatory tax policy takes our money and among many other self-serving profligacies dispenses grants to scientists. Scientists have devolved from truth seekers into grant seekers and peer recognition junkies. Grant seekers get money by conforming to the narrative beloved by the regulators and funders. Peer reviewed scientific papers bear fruit when their conclusions conform to the same narrative, a narrative perpetuated by other grant seekers and the grant dispensers. Can this self-perpetuating conformity be healthy for truly unbiased truth seeking? Of course it can’t.
“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Ranier Maria Rilke
Interesting counterpoint. See Youtube video with an award winning meteorologist, John Coleman, “How the Global Warming Scare Began“: Link here.