Category Archives: Climate

A Frigid Winter, Part II – Global Cooling

Here is more information and articles discussing the cooling and not the warming of the globe:

While I would not go so far as to say that it “erases global warming”, 10 year evidence demonstrates a leveling off of global temperatures, with a sudden drop this winter.  Certainly we will need to watch the upcoming winters to see if they are as cold and snow filled as the ’07-’08 winter has been so far.

To me and my less than stellar expertise on climate, the temperature and activity of the Sun makes the most sense as having the greatest impact on global temperatures.  In addition to this article, other studies that I have read in the past indicate during previous times of a less active Sun, cold weather and an overall cooler climate ensued.  In the same vein, it makes more sense to me that a more active Sun that produces more heat would be the likely culprit for global warming, with human blame minimal at best.  Here is a Denmark study on cosmic rays and global warming.

OK, so this one is a Russian article, do we still not trust them?  Anyway, it too gives a lot of credence to the impact of the Sun on the climate.

Basically, I put all of this out there not because I hate the environment; I actually love the environment and want to see it protected and conserved.  However, I am also sick and tired of the fear mongering on the part of our press via environmental activists who insist a global catastrophe is on its way because we humans are greedy and are destroying the environment.  The solutions they propose tow the line of Communist ideology (something that our media and politicians conveniently overlook), despite the fact that communist regimes are the biggest polluters and destroyers of the environment.  I am sick and tired of the strong arm tactics that the activists use against anyone who dares suggest different possibilities for climate change.  Things have gotten ridiculous, just 30 years ago the whole rage was global cooling, in the last 15 it has been global warming, and who knows, now we could be to global cooling because of global warming.

One of the things that the activists have been spectacularly successful at achieving is an evolution of what global warming is.  Does anyone else find it interesting that all of the sudden the new catch phrase of fear is climate change and the phrase global warming is becoming fewer and farther between?  This is because the science for global warming is spotty at best. But they have been successful convincing us that any unique or abnormal weather event is the result of global warming.  Even if global temperatures drop by six degrees over the next 10 years, they will claim that it was because of global warming.  It is ridiculous.  And sadly, most Americans, and especially the media, will buy it hook line and sinker.

The fact is, climate change is not really understood and science is wholly inconclusive.  Personally, I attribute the strange weather events to mother nature being mother nature.  Climate and nature have always been unpredictable, the earth regularly gets warmer then gets cooler.  All of this is nothing new, but we Americans apparently love to live in fear so we have to invent stuff to be afraid of.  It would be healthy for us to slow down and really study the issue instead of being reactionary.  Unfortunately, no matter what the issue is – climate, economy, war – our latest trend both as a culture and as a government has been to be reactionary; this is a dangerous path to take.

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A Frigid Winter and Militant Global Warmists

Anyone who his living through this winter knows that it has been one of the coldest winters in memory.  Across the United States and Canada it is has been frigidly cold and a considerable amount of snow (although where I live in southern PA the snow has been minimal, but it has been cold).   It seems apparent to me that such a winter is contrary to the claims of activists dedicated to the cause of global warming, haven’t they been saying that global warming will first cause the globe to warm?  So where has the warming been? 

In the National Post there is a fascinating article titled, “Forget Global Warming, Welcome to the New Ice Age.”  The author, Lorne Gunter, makes some great and relevant observations, both about the science of climatology and the culture of global warming activists.

To start, let’s look at this past winter.  Gunter points out that the January 2008 temperature average was .3 degrees colder than the average of the last century (1901-2000).   He adds that China is suffering its “most brutal” winter in memory and Toronto broke it’s February snowfall record, set back in the ’50s, in the first two weeks of February.  Additionally, a friend who lives in Salt Lake said that the Utah was at 120% of the snowfall average for the entire winter season, and that was in the first week of February (I should note that I have not validated that claim). 

So, so what?  One season does not a trend make! Amen to that.  But it is indicative that things are not as bad or dire as some may want us to believe, but let’s move on to other points made in this article.  One of the favorite fearmongering threats we here is that the polar ice caps are melting and are likely never to come to back.  I will not argue that the caps have been melting and that glaciers are in serious decline, but this winter has cured much of that.

And remember the Arctic Sea ice? The ice we were told so hysterically last fall had melted to its “lowest levels on record? Never mind that those records only date back as far as 1972 and that there is anthropological and geological evidence of much greater melts in the past.

The ice is back.

Gilles Langis, a senior forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa, says the Arctic winter has been so severe the ice has not only recovered, it is actually 10 to 20 cm thicker in many places than at this time last year.

OK, so one winter does not a climate make. It would be premature to claim an Ice Age is looming just because we have had one of our most brutal winters in decades.

But if environmentalists and environment reporters can run around shrieking about the manmade destruction of the natural order every time a robin shows up on Georgian Bay two weeks early, then it is at least fair game to use this winter’s weather stories to wonder whether the alarmist are being a tad premature.

Two points here, the obvious is that the polar ice is in nowhere near as much trouble as we thought, the second is that though this is anecdotal evidence, that is essentially all global warmists use.  I love the last paragraph from the quote above.

The science mentioned in the article is very fascinating, but I will omit that information here as my post is getting too long and people don’t like to read that stuff much anyway (unfortunately) and I will address that info in future posts.  But there are some other points to be made about the environmentalists who have been ratcheting up the fear mongering and how their actions automatically caused me to question the validity of their claims. 

The first action that made me question global warming derives from the last paragraph of the quote above, that is that they use anything and everything, no matter how minute to try to install fear into us that we are all doomed because of global warming. 

The other action is the activists actions and attitudes towards anyone who either questions them or suggests that we look at all the science or theories out there.  People who suggest this are immediately and unequivocably cast aside as crazies and industry lackies.  Despite the fact that many of the global warming doubters are MIT, Harvard, and other respected researchers and scientists.  The Wall Street Journal had a must read article about this topic titled, “Chilling Effect: Global Warmists Try to Stifle Debate.” 

All three serious contenders for the Presidency acknowledge that more needs to be done to slow global warming and take care of the environment (I agree with the latter). So, as the article states:

You’d think this would be a rich time for debate on the issue of climate change. But it’s precisely as sweeping change on climate policy is becoming likely that many people have decided the time for debate is over. One writer puts climate change skeptics “in a similar moral category to Holocaust denial,” another envisions “war crimes trials” for the deniers. And during the tour for his film “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore himself belittled “global warming deniers” as unworthy of any attention.

I have noticed that type of response for a while now and it should give everyone pause.  If global warmists were so confident with their science why do they so vehemently stifle debate and criticize anyone who remotely questions them?  It makes no sense. 

Take for example, from the article, Bjorn Lomborg an author and left leaning believer of global warming.  In his recent book, “Cool It”, he simply calls for a reasoned debate on the appropriate responses to stem global warming.  This alone infuriated activists, many of whom considered him a traitor. 

Additionally, there is finally a major conference coming up to discuss the realities of climate change, basically an anti-global warming conference.  Undoubtedly the science presented will be as biased as the science presented at the pro-global warming conferences, but that is not the point.  The point is that the environmental activists are already demeaning the presenters as corporate apologists and that, ” ‘no real scientists’ (will be) present despite an impressive array of speakers such as Patrick Michaels, a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, and Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.” 

I am convinced that global warming as a whole is a sham.  Especially man-made global warming.  I am also convinced that the militant-like global warming activists are only using the issue to push a socialist and communist agenda.  Call me a conspiracy theorist or whatever, but I am just calling it as I see it.  I can come up with no other explanation for the irrational claims, actions, and attitudes of the activist global warming movement.   

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Global Cooling; Are we headed for a new Ice Age?

The whole topic of global warming is one that I am very interested in, yet have remained very skeptical of.   I think the reason I am so interested in it is because it appears to be difficult to get clear unbiased information. 

It occurred to me early on that there was something fishy about this whole global warming movement.  It just did not fit with the other major real concerns that we face as a planet.  The first red flag that went up was that the theory was accepted as fact from nearly the first time it was announced, despite the fact that 20 years earlier many were fearing global cooling.  

The second red flag was that all of the reports the media released about global warming were supporting the theory.  It appeared (and still does) that any reports questioning the theory or outright disagreeing with it was not only pushed under the rug, but the scientists whom produced the studies were immediately castigated and dismissed as cronies for corporate America and laughed off the stage, while the proponents of global warming were always presented as purer than freshly fallen snow. 

However, my take regarding this issue (after having been bashed over the head with the dangers of global warming) evolved from outright denial that it is actually occurring to accepting the fact that the earth was getting warmer, but that human activity had little to do with it.  Up to that point, I actually did very little research into the issue, so my opinions were questionable at best.

Now, while far from an expert, I am back to a full and outright denial that there is any major change in our climate.  It appears to me that certainly things are different now than 50 years ago, but so what?  The earth throughout its history fluctuates in temperature and climate, and the biggest reason for that fluctuation is activity of the Sun. 

This past week another study was released that is very interesting (of course, I don’t claim it to be the end all be all, science is an evolving study) and I find it important to get it out there if only to try to provide another voice to those whom disagree that man-made global warming is actually occurring.  Some researchers in Canada’s National Research Council have been studying the temperature of the sun and how it correlates to climate on the earth. 

Back in 1991, the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study using data that went back centuries that showed that global temperatures closely tracked solar cycles.

To many, those data were convincing. Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better “eyes” with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth’s climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined.

And they’re worried about global cooling, not warming.

There are two initial thoughts I get from these introductory paragraphs in the article: 1. Of course the Sun is going to have a more significant impact than anything else.  2. If journalists and media did not have an agenda, they would promote these findings as much as they do supporting global warming.  Here is more from the article:

Solar activity fluctuates in an 11-year cycle. But so far in this cycle, the sun has been disturbingly quiet. The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century.

Such an event occurred in the 17th century. The observation of sunspots showed extraordinarily low levels of magnetism on the sun, with little or no 11-year cycle.

This solar hibernation corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe.

Tapping reports no change in the sun’s magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.

Certainly, this one study (though there are many like it) does not disprove or prove anything, it is just one study that happens to be contrary to what the media, many activists, and many scientists want us to believe.  

This current winter that we are in seems to be one of the coldest that I can remember, some family members in Utah reported to me that many of the ski resorts there were already at about 120% snowpack for the entire season, and that was at the end of January; they still have February and March left to go.  Granted, this is all circumstantial and not scientific evidence, but it is telling none the less. 

Now I wonder if eventually the discourse within the environemental movement will move from global warming back to global cooling over the next 25-50 years, here is betting they do.  You see, the environmental movement is only relevant and continues to receive funding when the common man is kept in a state of fear.  The same holds true with many other organizations, we are kept in a similar state of fear from terrorist attacks so that the government can spend more money and keep control; Thus, bringing it back to the environmental movement, environmentalists will do whatever necessary to promote the studies that support what they want to be true.  Does that mean the findings are not true?  No, it just means that the movement is being selective and pushing an agenda.

I would, therefore, argue that a study loses much of its lustre after it has been pushed and promoted too much by the environmentalists (and the same can be said for any study that is overly pushed by anyone).   So my basic point in writing this was to encourage the reader to question the common wisdom and always look for alternative theories.   I used this particular study here to demonstrate that there is conflicting evidence, evidence that I find to be more convincing than claims made by hollywood, but I also recognize that this study is not gospel.  However, it does provide an alternate look into climate change, one that should not be ignored by the media or anyone who honestly is seeking to understand what is really going on as opposed to pushing an agenda.

(May I add an interesting observation?  It seems to me that the environmental movement is already moving away from global warming as the key phrase and are moving to “global climate change.”   Do you see the significance of this change?  Basically, anytime any significant climate event occurs, either in support of warming or cooling, they will be able to claim they were right and, thus, can continue to push their agenda, no matter how radical it may be.   This change also demonstrates that there are cracks in the armor of the warming movement and more and more studies are being released that refute their claim.)

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It’s not about “the science”.

According to (suprisingly) the NY Times, The former, and I stress former, Surgeon General is claiming censorship.

Interesting, that a position that traditionally has been bi-partisan if not politically neutral has all of the sudden cried foul play, and just short of a year later. He complains that officials had him come to meetings to explain “the science” of things like global warming but wasn’t heard. He also claims he was pressured to not release reports about the dangers of even brief contact with second hand smoke. I would love to ask him a few questions of my own.

1) Why now? Why did you wait for over a year to even bring this up?

2) You were elected to a position that is meant to safeguard the American people, why did you allow politics to interfere with that end?

There are more, but they are all inter-related with the above. Here’s what I got from the article. There is a former surgeon general that was not asked for another term, even though his adminstration was, now he’s upset because he didn’t take advantage of his time in office. Here’s why, when he consulted the Surgeon Generals that were appointed by the Reagan and Clinton administrations, both stated they felt political pressure to either release, or not release certain findings or theories from the administrations. Yet, both of them had the fortitude to release them anyway. Dr. Carmona, unfortunately was not as strong. He didn’t have the spine to stand up for science, now he’s stating that people didn’t respect his scientific opinion. I don’t respect his opinion now either, he has shown that scientific finding and reason are not his number one priorities, even while sitting as Surgeon General of the United States.

He can complain all he wants, but this isn’t about “the science”. This is about a doctor that did not live up to his appointment, and is now trying to blame someone else for his own folly. I’m not buying it. Did he honestly believe that the American people wouldn’t support him if he released a report about the dangers of second hand smoke? If he were to release such a report, what president would dismiss the man that reported on an issue that is very important to the people? The answer is none. It’s not about censorship or “the science”, this doctor is just feeling remorse for not doing what he was appointed to do.

~ RationalZen

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How Can I Be Expected to Take Global Warming Seriously?

Lately many of the studies, reports, and ideas that have come out about global warming and ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmostphere have been down right silly and ridiculous.  How can I be expected to take it seriously?  honestly, it baffles the mind.  One of the things that verges on ridiculous are the popular “carbon offsets” that hypocritcal rich people use to justify their extravagant lifestyle while still feeling good about criticizing middle-class moms for driving SUV’s, that is stupid, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Hollywood.  What really gets ridiculous and makes it hard to believe the claims of some scientists about global warming is when I see unbelievable articles like this one on Yahoo!, titled:

Cows that Burp Less Seen Helping in Climate Fight 

The opening paragraph:

Manners aside, getting cows to burp less can help reduce global warming.

Using modern plant-breeding methods to find new diets for cows that make them belch less is a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said on Monday.

Seriously? Is this what science has been reduced to?   They are trying to tell me that getting cows to burp just a little less each day would make an impact on the amount of methane in the atmosphere?  This is among the stupidest thing I have ever heard. If I had seen this article in The Onion I would have laughed a lot, sadly I didn’t.  Let’s read more:

He (Michael Abberton) noted the average dairy cow belches out about 100 to 200 liters of methane each day, making diet changes a key potential factor in reducing this greenhouse gas.

“There is a common misperception about how methane gets into the atmosphere,” he said. “It is actually through belching rather than the other end.”

What really upsets me about articles like this is that some crazy politician in Britain and, likely, here in the U.S. will use this as a rally call to establish more rules and regulations on our cattle industries, thus causing breeders to spend more money, go through more red-tape, and be subject to more inspections.  As a result, the cost of everything cow related will go up ranging from steaks to milk to leather.  Not only that, it would eventually harm certain grain industries that rely on producing cow feed or, for those ranches where cattle simply feed from whatever grass and grains grow on the land, ranchers will be forced to buy specific, FDA approved feed for their cows.  So what does it come down too?  More government control, less freedom, and higher costs for consumers.   All in order to minimize the amount of times a cow burps in order to save us all from global warming, nevermind the likelyhood that this would have little to no impact whatsoever.

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What’s the Big Deal?

If I’m ever in need of some good old fashioned conversation I can find it at work.   I happen to work with some highly intelligent people, and all come from a varied background politically and otherwise.  We got talking about the age-old topic of global warming and here’s the conclusion that surfaced from our conversation:

Global warming is no longer about science and protecting the Earth.  One major piece of evidence backing that conclusion is the fact that the politicians have now gotten involved.  Consequently, their involvement has now dumbed down the issue to the point that it’s not worth discussing.  There are far too many people that are unwilling to accept the fact that humans COULD BE causing the accelerated warming of the Earth based on the simple notion that Al Gore did a movie saying otherwise.  There are an equal number of idiots out there that believe simply because Al Gore or Michael Moore have gotten behind a topic that it must be the truth.  Neither group have anything intelligent nor useful to add to the conversation, which is catastrophic for the American people as they are the people influencing our voting politicians.  Global Warming is no longer about Earth, it’s about drawing the party line in the sand.

That being said, here’s what I know about global warming.  It’s happening, it’s happened before, and will happen again.  Also if the Earth warms up, then the ice caps will probably melt and overall climates around the world COULD change.

Here’s what I don’t know about global warming:  Is it really a bad thing if our climate changes and the Earth warms up?  I haven’t seen any compelling evidence that postulates our Earth is in it’s prime climate state right now.  If it’s not in the prime state than I have to believe that it’s in a sub-prime state.  If it’s in a sub-prime state, then why waste so much time and effort into stifling change?  It could be for the better, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.  Life will move one, it always has.  Who knows, with some fertile farm land from our freshly melted ice caps Canada might achieve some relevance on Earth outside the worlds of the NHL and Maple Syrup.

Either way, it’s deplorable to me that our politicians have stifled innovation.  The only reason I’m pro-environmental reform is because I believe it’s ludicrous that we’ve not progressed any further with the combustible engine than we have.  There’s not one logical reason why the USA has any dependence on foreign oil right now, except for maybe the politicians got wind of a scientific topic and removed the science from it……just like global warming.

~ RationalZen

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Global Cooling? A new look at climate change

Global warming is a topic that is highly divisive, controversial, and in the fore front of many peoples’ minds. While I do not doubt that indeed the Earth is getting warmer, the argument that green house gases and human disregard is the leading cause of it has never sat well with me. As a result, I refuse(d) to believe the hype. It did not help that the only people I see harping about it as a problem were politicians, left-wing groups, and international political organizations – none of which I have much faith in. It is also troubling when MIT climate professors and other scientists and climatologists attempt to debunk human caused warming theories, only to be ridiculed or marginalized. I tell you, I am more apt to believe the science.

All that being said, there are scientists that can make an argument for either side of the debate. However, the most convincing arguments almost always come from those who disagree with popular perception in this regard. Now let it be clear, I do not doubt that the globe is warming. In the study that I am using as a premise for this article, they mention that in the past Century the globe has warmed .6 degrees Celsius, so something probably around 1.5 to 2 degrees farenheit. I am not even arguing that human factors did not play any role at all. What I am arguing, and it is an argument that I am more and more confident about daily, is that Humans are not the primary cause of global warming. I am convinced that warming and cooling are natural cycles that have occurred over the history of time and will continue regardless of anything humans do. In the Financial Times article that is my reference, Read the Sunspots, they give a great quote: “Climate stability has never been a feature of planet Earth. The only constant about climate is change; it changes continually and, at times, quite rapidly.” It is a great reminder that the Earth’s climate has never been stable, an excellent point. They continue and add:

 

Many times in the past, temperatures were far higher than today, and occasionally, temperatures were colder. As recently as 6,000 years ago, it was about 3C warmer than now. Ten thousand years ago, while the world was coming out of the thou-sand-year-long “Younger Dryas” cold episode, temperatures rose as much as 6C in a decade — 100 times faster than the past century’s 0.6C warming that has so upset environmentalists.

What strikes me about this paragraph is that in one decade the temperatures rose 6C!! And the Earth is still here to tell about it. Now I am sure that many died during that time, but the point is that, what we are going through now is hardly a cause for MAJOR concern. Of course we should protect the environment and be wiser with what God has given us, but lets not get out of hand and try to stifle all innovation and human progress because of unfounded fear. I still have faith in human kind, and especially we in the “West.” Our society was built on innovation and getting the most out of what we have. Everyday we see new ideas and advancements that are smart and safe for the environment, just watch the History Channel’s Modern Marvels from time to time.

The primary argument that this article is making is that the temperature of the Sun determines the temperature of the Earth more than any other factor. Of course it does! In fact they argue that we need to be prepared for global cooling and a mini-ice age more than we do global warming:

 

Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world, especially Canada. As a country at the northern limit to agriculture in the world, it would take very little cooling to destroy much of our food crops, while a warming would only require that we adopt farming techniques practiced to the south of us.

I am not saying that this is gospel or anything of the sort, I am not a scientist (although I do find it fascinating). What I am trying to get across is that there is more than one side to every story, and instead of being the alarmists and worriers that we Americans are known to be, lets be patient, continue advancements to protect the environment (not because of global warming, but because it is just the right thing to do), and make plans to prepare for a variety of possible futures.

The scientific studies part of the article is pasted below for those of you who want to see the process they used to arrive at their conclusions:

My interest in the current climate-change debate was triggered in 1998, when I was funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council strategic project grant to determine if there were regular cycles in West Coast fish productivity. As a result of wide swings in the populations of anchovies, herring and other commercially important West Coast fish stock, fisheries managers were having a very difficult time establishing appropriate fishing quotas. One season there would be abundant stock and broad harvesting would be acceptable; the very next year the fisheries would collapse. No one really knew why or how to predict the future health of this crucially important resource.

Although climate was suspected to play a significant role in marine productivity, only since the beginning of the 20th century have accurate fishing and temperature records been kept in this region of the northeast Pacific. We needed indicators of fish productivity over thousands of years to see whether there were recurring cycles in populations and what phenomena may be driving the changes.

My research team began to collect and analyze core samples from the bottom of deep Western Canadian fjords. The regions in which we chose to conduct our research, Effingham Inlet on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and in 2001, sounds in the Belize-Seymour Inlet complex on the mainland coast of British Columbia, were perfect for this sort of work. The topography of these fjords is such that they contain deep basins that are subject to little water transfer from the open ocean and so water near the bottom is relatively stagnant and very low in oxygen content. As a consequence, the floors of these basins are mostly lifeless and sediment layers build up year after year, undisturbed over millennia.

Using various coring technologies, we have been able to collect more than 5,000 years’ worth of mud in these basins, with the oldest layers coming from a depth of about 11 metres below the fjord floor. Clearly visible in our mud cores are annual changes that record the different seasons: corresponding to the cool, rainy winter seasons, we see dark layers composed mostly of dirt washed into the fjord from the land; in the warm summer months we see abundant fossilized fish scales and diatoms (the most common form of phytoplankton, or single-celled ocean plants) that have fallen to the fjord floor from nutrient-rich surface waters. In years when warm summers dominated climate in the region, we clearly see far thicker layers of diatoms and fish scales than we do in cooler years. Ours is one of the highest-quality climate records available anywhere today and in it we see obvious confirmation that natural climate change can be dramatic. For example, in the middle of a 62-year slice of the record at about 4,400 years ago, there was a shift in climate in only a couple of seasons from warm, dry and sunny conditions to one that was mostly cold and rainy for several decades.

Using computers to conduct what is referred to as a “time series analysis” on the colouration and thickness of the annual layers, we have discovered repeated cycles in marine productivity in this, a region larger than Europe. Specifically, we find a very strong and consistent 11-year cycle throughout the whole record in the sediments and diatom remains. This correlates closely to the well-known 11-year “Schwabe” sunspot cycle, during which the output of the sun varies by about 0.1%. Sunspots, violent storms on the surface of the sun, have the effect of increasing solar output, so, by counting the spots visible on the surface of our star, we have an indirect measure of its varying brightness. Such records have been kept for many centuries and match very well with the changes in marine productivity we are observing.

In the sediment, diatom and fish-scale records, we also see longer period cycles, all correlating closely with other well-known regular solar variations. In particular, we see marine productivity cycles that match well with the sun’s 75-90-year “Gleissberg Cycle,” the 200-500-year “Suess Cycle” and the 1,100-1,500-year “Bond Cycle.” The strength of these cycles is seen to vary over time, fading in and out over the millennia. The variation in the sun’s brightness over these longer cycles may be many times greater in magnitude than that measured over the short Schwabe cycle and so are seen to impact marine productivity even more significantly.

Our finding of a direct correlation between variations in the brightness of the sun and earthly climate indicators (called “proxies”) is not unique. Hundreds of other studies, using proxies from tree rings in Russia’s Kola Peninsula to water levels of the Nile, show exactly the same thing: The sun appears to drive climate change.

However, there was a problem. Despite this clear and repeated correlation, the measured variations in incoming solar energy were, on their own, not sufficient to cause the climate changes we have observed in our proxies. In addition, even though the sun is brighter now than at any time in the past 8,000 years, the increase in direct solar input is not calculated to be sufficient to cause the past century’s modest warming on its own. There had to be an amplifier of some sort for the sun to be a primary driver of climate change.

Indeed, that is precisely what has been discovered. In a series of groundbreaking scientific papers starting in 2002, Veizer, Shaviv, Carslaw, and most recently Svensmark et al., have collectively demonstrated that as the output of the sun varies, and with it, our star’s protective solar wind, varying amounts of galactic cosmic rays from deep space are able to enter our solar system and penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. These cosmic rays enhance cloud formation which, overall, has a cooling effect on the planet. When the sun’s energy output is greater, not only does the Earth warm slightly due to direct solar heating, but the stronger solar wind generated during these “high sun” periods blocks many of the cosmic rays from entering our atmosphere. Cloud cover decreases and the Earth warms still more.

The opposite occurs when the sun is less bright. More cosmic rays are able to get through to Earth’s atmosphere, more clouds form, and the planet cools more than would otherwise be the case due to direct solar effects alone. This is precisely what happened from the middle of the 17th century into the early 18th century, when the solar energy input to our atmosphere, as indicated by the number of sunspots, was at a minimum and the planet was stuck in the Little Ice Age. These new findings suggest that changes in the output of the sun caused the most recent climate change. By comparison, CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet’s climate on long, medium and even short time scales.

In some fields the science is indeed “settled.” For example, plate tectonics, once highly controversial, is now so well-established that we rarely see papers on the subject at all. But the science of global climate change is still in its infancy, with many thousands of papers published every year. In a 2003 poll conducted by German environmental researchers Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch, two-thirds of more than 530 climate scientists from 27 countries surveyed did not believe that “the current state of scientific knowledge is developed well enough to allow for a reasonable assessment of the effects of greenhouse gases.” About half of those polled stated that the science of climate change was not sufficiently settled to pass the issue over to policymakers at all.

Solar scientists predict that, by 2020, the sun will be starting into its weakest Schwabe solar cycle of the past two centuries, likely leading to unusually cool conditions on Earth. Beginning to plan for adaptation to such a cool period, one which may continue well beyond one 11-year cycle, as did the Little Ice Age, should be a priority for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world, especially Canada. As a country at the northern limit to agriculture in the world, it would take very little cooling to destroy much of our food crops, while a warming would only require that we adopt farming techniques practiced to the south of us.

Meantime, we need to continue research into this, the most complex field of science ever tackled, and immediately halt wasted expenditures on the King Canute-like task of “stopping climate change.”
R. Timothy Patterson is professor and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University.

 

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