[extropy-chat] The great global warming swindle

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Wed Apr 4 01:42:51 UTC 2007

 From The Sunday Times
February 11, 2007

An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change

Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, 
says the orthodoxy must be challenged

When politicians and journalists declare that the 
science of global warming is settled, they show a 
regrettable ignorance about how science works. We 
were treated to another dose of it recently when 
the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on 
Climate Change issued the Summary for 
Policymakers that puts the political spin on an 
unfinished scientific dossier on climate change 
due for publication in a few months’ time. They 
declared that most of the rise in temperatures 
since the mid-20th century is very likely due to man-made greenhouse gases.

The small print explains “very likely” as meaning 
that the experts who made the judgment felt 90% 
sure about it. Older readers may recall a press 
conference at Harwell in 1958 when Sir John 
Cockcroft, Britain’s top nuclear physicist, said 
he was 90% certain that his lads had achieved 
controlled nuclear fusion. It turned out that he 
was wrong. More positively, a 10% uncertainty in 
any theory is a wide open breach for any 
latterday Galileo or Einstein to storm through 
with a better idea. That is how science really works.

Twenty years ago, climate research became 
politicised in favour of one particular 
hypothesis, which redefined the subject as the 
study of the effect of greenhouse gases. As a 
result, the rebellious spirits essential for 
innovative and trustworthy science are greeted 
with impediments to their research careers. And 
while the media usually find mavericks at least 
entertaining, in this case they often imagine 
that anyone who doubts the hypothesis of man-made 
global warming must be in the pay of the oil 
companies. As a result, some key discoveries in 
climate research go almost unreported.

Enthusiasm for the global-warming scare also 
ensures that heatwaves make headlines, while 
contrary symptoms, such as this winter’s 
billion-dollar loss of Californian crops to 
unusual frost, are relegated to the business 
pages. The early arrival of migrant birds in 
spring provides colourful evidence for a recent 
warming of the northern lands. But did anyone 
tell you that in east Antarctica the Adélie 
penguins and Cape petrels are turning up at their 
spring nesting sites around nine days later than 
they did 50 years ago? While sea-ice has 
diminished in the Arctic since 1978, it has grown by 8% in the Southern Ocean.

So one awkward question you can ask, when you’re 
forking out those extra taxes for climate change, 
is “Why is east Antarctica getting colder?” It 
makes no sense at all if carbon dioxide is 
driving global warming. While you’re at it, you 
might inquire whether Gordon Brown will give you 
a refund if it’s confirmed that global warming 
has stopped. The best measurements of global air 
temperatures come from American weather 
satellites, and they show wobbles but no overall change since 1999.

That levelling off is just what is expected by 
the chief rival hypothesis, which says that the 
sun drives climate changes more emphatically than 
greenhouse gases do. After becoming much more 
active during the 20th century, the sun now 
stands at a high but roughly level state of 
activity. Solar physicists warn of possible 
global cooling, should the sun revert to the 
lazier mood it was in during the Little Ice Age 300 years ago.

Climate history and related archeology give solid 
support to the solar hypothesis. The 20th-century 
episode, or Modern Warming, was just the latest 
in a long string of similar events produced by a 
hyperactive sun, of which the last was the Medieval Warming.

The Chinese population doubled then, while in 
Europe the Vikings and cathedral-builders 
prospered. Fascinating relics of earlier episodes 
come from the Swiss Alps, with the rediscovery in 
2003 of a long-forgotten pass used intermittently whenever the world was warm.

What does the Intergovernmental Panel do with 
such emphatic evidence for an alternation of warm 
and cold periods, linked to solar activity and 
going on long before human industry was a 
possible factor? Less than nothing. The 2007 
Summary for Policymakers boasts of cutting in 
half a very small contribution by the sun to 
climate change conceded in a 2001 report.

Disdain for the sun goes with a failure by the 
self-appointed greenhouse experts to keep up with 
inconvenient discoveries about how the solar 
variations control the climate. The sun’s 
brightness may change too little to account for 
the big swings in the climate. But more than 10 
years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in 
Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism.

He saw from compilations of weather satellite 
data that cloudiness varies according to how many 
atomic particles are coming in from exploded 
stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun’s 
magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, 
and its intensification during the 20th century 
meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a 
warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice 
Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more 
cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.

The only trouble with Svensmark’s idea ­ apart 
from its being politically incorrect ­ was that 
meteorologists denied that cosmic rays could be 
involved in cloud formation. After long delays in 
scraping together the funds for an experiment, 
Svensmark and his small team at the Danish 
National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005.

In a box of air in the basement, they were able 
to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays 
coming through the ceiling stitched together 
droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are 
the building blocks for cloud condensation. But 
journal after journal declined to publish their 
report; the discovery finally appeared in the 
Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.

Thanks to having written The Manic Sun, a book 
about Svensmark’s initial discovery published in 
1997, I have been privileged to be on the inside 
track for reporting his struggles and successes 
since then. The outcome is a second book, The 
Chilling Stars, co-authored by the two of us and 
published next week by Icon books. We are not 
exaggerating, we believe, when we subtitle it “A 
new theory of climate change”.

Where does all that leave the impact of 
greenhouse gases? Their effects are likely to be 
a good deal less than advertised, but nobody can 
really say until the implications of the new 
theory of climate change are more fully worked out.

The reappraisal starts with Antarctica, where 
those contradictory temperature trends are 
directly predicted by Svensmark’s scenario, 
because the snow there is whiter than the 
cloud-tops. Meanwhile humility in face of 
Nature’s marvels seems more appropriate than 
arrogant assertions that we can forecast and even 
control a climate ruled by the sun and the stars.

The Chilling Stars is published by Icon. It is 
available for £9.89 including postage from The 
Sunday Times Books First on 0870 165 8585


‘Blame cosmic rays not CO2 for warming up the planet’

Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

The impact of cosmic rays on the climate could be 
greater than scientists suspect after experiments 
showed they may have a pivotal role in cloud formation.

Researchers have managed to replicate the effect 
of cosmic rays on the aerosols in the atmosphere 
that help to create clouds. Henrik Svensmark, a 
weather scientist in Denmark, said the 
experiments suggested that man’s influence on 
global warming might be rather less than was 
supposed by the bulk of scientific opinion.

Cosmic rays ­ radiation, or particles of energy, 
from stars, which bombard the Earth ­ can create 
electrically charged ions in the atmosphere that 
act as a magnet for water vapour, causing clouds to form.

Dr Svensmark suggests that the Sun, at a 
historically high level of activity, is 
deflecting many of the cosmic rays away from 
Earth and thus reducing the cloud cover.

Clouds reflect the Sun’s rays back into space and 
are considered to have an important cooling 
effect. However, if during periods of high 
activity the Sun’s magnetic field pushes a 
greater proportion of cosmic rays away from the Earth, fewer clouds will form.

The research, published in the journal 
Proceedings of the Royal Society, concentrates on 
how ions are created and behave in the atmosphere 
when cosmic rays from stars hit it.

Cosmic rays were replicated by the use of 
ultraviolet light that were turned on and off in 
both short bursts and long exposures to create 
ions. The researchers found that the presence of 
ions encouraged the formation of clusters of molecules.

In the atmosphere these clusters of ozone, 
sulphur dioxide and water are understood to act 
as aerosols in attracting water vapour, 
culminating in the formation of clouds.

The number of clusters, according to the report, 
is proportionate to the number of ions present, 
which in turn depends on the frequency of cosmic rays reaching the Earth.

“The experiment indicates that ions play a role 
in nucleating new particles in the atmosphere and 
that the rate of production is sensitive to the 
rate of ion density,” the report concluded. “One 
might expect to find a relationship between 
ioni-sation and cloud properties. This feature 
seems to be consistent with the present work.”

The report added that the ions were likely to 
generate a reservoir of clusters of aerosol 
molecules in the atmosphere that “are important 
for nuclea-tion processes in the atmosphere and ultimately cloud formation”.

The findings are unlikely to change radically the 
views of mainstream climatologists. Nevertheless, 
a team of scientists will shortly begin a larger 
experiment at a particle accelerator in Europe in 
the hope of learning more about the effects of cosmic rays on cloud cover.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel for 
Climate Change, by far the biggest influence on 
climate change is the level of greenhouse gases 
released by mankind, largely through the use of fossil fuels.

Peter Stott, of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre 
and one of Britain’s leading climate scientists, 
said that Dr Svensmark’s theory should be taken 
“with a cellar of salt”. Small, localised effects 
on cloud formation might be possible but he 
dismissed the suggestion of cosmic rays being responsible for global warming.

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