[extropy-chat] The great global warming swindle
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, Britains 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 winters
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 youre
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 youre at it, you
might inquire whether Gordon Brown will give you
a refund if its 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 suns
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 suns
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 Svensmarks 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 Svensmarks 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 Svensmarks scenario,
because the snow there is whiter than the
cloud-tops. Meanwhile humility in face of
Natures 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 mans 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 Suns rays back into space and
are considered to have an important cooling
effect. However, if during periods of high
activity the Suns 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 Offices Hadley Centre
and one of Britains leading climate scientists,
said that Dr Svensmarks 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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