Streetwise Professor

September 11, 2011

Sunshine is the Best Disinfectant

Filed under: Climate Change,Politics — The Professor @ 7:21 pm

I haven’t written about climate controversies in quite a while.  Between Climategate, which discredited many prominent climate scientists, and impending economic catastrophe, which has made speculations about potential future catastrophes seem indulgent, concerns about global warming have been relegated to the back burner (no pun intended).  But the recent news about the CERN experiment testing the Svensmark hypothesis is worth comment.

Svensmark’s work is an attempt to explain the most inconvenient truth for AGM advocates: the strong correlation at all time scales between measures of solar activity and temperature.  Of course, correlation does not imply causation, but it is implausible that terrestrial conditions–including CO2–affect the sun.  It may be the case (though highly unlikely) that some other factor affects both the sun and our climate, but this undermines the importance of CO2 as a major climate driver.

The correlation is well known.  The mechanism is not.  AGM advocates have demonstrated that variations in the amount of energy reaching the earth from the sun are not sufficiently large to explain variations in earth temperature.  Fine.  That rules out one explanation of the correlation.  But it does not make the correlation disappear.  It is a fact that hangs there.

Years ago Svensmark hypothesized that variations in solar activity affected the amount of cosmic rays reaching the earth, and that cosmic rays affected cloud formation.  Variations in cloud cover driven by variations in cosmic radiation driven by variations in the sun, according to Svensmark, cause variations in temperatures and other climate variables on earth.

Svensmark has been dismissed by the climate science establishment.  This establishment has gone to great lengths to prevent testing of his hypothesis.  The multi-government funded, and very politically sensitive, CERN dragged its feet for years before grudgingly making resources available to test it.  The initial results, announced in late-August, do not reject the hypothesis, and are generally supportive of it.

If the establishment scientists were acting more like scientists than an establishment, they would have welcomed speedy and thorough testing of Svensmark’s conjecture.  If they were truly confident in the AGW explanation for climate change, they would have had nothing to fear from testing of an alternative explanation, and should have indeed wanted empirical evidence that would have allowed them to reject it.  This would have discredited “skeptics” and bolstered confidence in their preferred explanation.

But in acting like the Inquisition to Svensmark’s Gallileo, the establishment scientists betray deep insecurity about their explanation for climate variations–and no doubt their funding, which hinges crucially on the acceptance (not the correctness) of that explanation.  If the AGM hypothesis is indeed as strong as they insist, they would have nothing to fear from a rigorous test: yet fear is clearly evident in their continued efforts to squelch not just this research, but exploration of alternative hypotheses more generally.

This whole sordid tale reveals just how corrupting Official Science can be.  Big science funded by government becomes less like science and more like government: politicized, bureaucratic, and driven by vested interest and money rather than a strong desire to find the truth, the chips fall where they may.

The mechanism that Svensmark posited decades ago may be wrong.  Future tests may reject his hypothesis.  But absent surprising new empirical evidence, the Big Fact hangs there: there is a strong association between what happens on the surface of the sun and what happens on the surface of the earth.   That fact neither rises nor falls on Svensmark’s hypothesis to explain it.  The fact is antecedent to the explanation.  As long as that fact remains a fact, CO2-based explanations are tenuous, at best.

No existing climate model explains this correlation.  In real science, this should stand as a decisive rejection of those models, and the theoretical foundation on which they rest.  Until such models can explain this salient fact, little–if any–weight should be placed on the reliability of their predictions about relations between CO2 and climate variables.

The CERN CLOUD experiment has let some sun shine on the dark corners of climate science, and the view revealed is not a pretty one.  Much more sunshine is needed to purify the smelly orthodoxy that is establishment climate science.  Until that establishment can demonstrate a serious willingness to tackle a major empirical and theoretical challenge, it will have fully earned the oblivion to which it is currently headed, to the accompaniment of Al Gore’s lunatic ravings.

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  1. Nobody disputes that there is a relation between solar activity (and volcanism) and temperature. What is a fact is that solar activity has remained at more or less the same levels since 1900, whereas temperatures have started sharply diverging from what would have been expected from natural forcing alone since the 1970’s.

    It’s funny how you consider studying climate change and its effects on the economy to be an indulgence. Don’t you dis Putin and Co. for their (supposed) short-termism like every fifth blog post or so?

    Get your head out of the ground (or is it the sand? – that’s where Texas is headed, anyway). Have you noticed the little drought outside the windows? It is already far more severe than anything in the past century. In a few more decades, it will be the new normal. But never mind, the prayers of Rick Perry and his hicks will surely solve the problem!

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — September 11, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  2. Up until a few years ago and in connection with the global warming debate I did not think that science could be so widely corrupted by politics and money. It has gotten so foolish that warmista NASA sponsored scientists are now speculating that aliens might exterminate humankind for allowing global temperature rise. Our tax dollars at work.

    It is darn lucky for us that aliens didn’t arrive during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) or we would already be exterminated. Those darn Viking sttlements on Greenland during the MWP must have upset the delicate global balance resulting in higher global temperatures. I guess the warmistas see the Viking departure corresponding with global cooling and lower temperatures as proof of their impact on the global system rather than vice versa.

    Comment by pahoben — September 12, 2011 @ 7:47 am

  3. Your response didn’t even address the Svensmark hypothesis that significant variations of the suns magnetic field (that does vary considerably) and its impact on condensation seeds in the atmosphere from increased neutron flux.

    Gee 100 years now there is a significant period to determine normal climate variation.

    The Pacific has tended to La Nina conditions for a couple years now and drought in the Southwest is normal with La Nina conditions in the Pacific. I would have thought that you were familiar with the Dust Bowl period from Woody Guthry songs if from nowhere else.

    Comment by pahoben — September 12, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

  4. There is a good Berkely paper-“Paleo Climate Reconstruction in the Southwest based on Woody Guthry Songs.”

    Comment by pahoben — September 12, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  5. Sublime Oblivion’s comment demonstrates beautifully who the real “deniers” are.

    Comment by Green as Grass — September 13, 2011 @ 2:37 am

  6. Hello, am curious if someone can explain AGM to me. The only thing I can think of is Annual General Meeting, which doesn’t seem to fit well into the context as I read it.

    Thanks for the help!

    Comment by curious — September 13, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  7. @curious–glad to have such a close reader. Yeah, that’s what AGM usually stands for. Brain cramp on my part–meant AGW, anthropomorphic global warming.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 13, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

  8. It’s actually anthropogenic.

    Not surprised to see this, however, given that denier Tea Baggers not only know the least about climate change out of any major American political grouping, but think they know the most (i.e. classic Dunning–Kruger) and say that they don’t need any more information to make up their minds.

    They are the idiocracy of our times.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — September 13, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

  9. Climate change-what a joke. The climate has changed for four billion years and will continue to change even after the anti climate change aliens exterminate mankind They will be so sad when they realize they exterminated a technological civilization and the darn climate on earth is still changing.

    Comment by pahoben — September 13, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

  10. Could you explain Forbush decrease and it’s impact on temperature. I am a member of the idoiocracy and yearn for climate knowledge from an intellectual overlord oh vaunted Sublime Oblivion.

    Comment by pahoben — September 13, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

  11. Another question if you do not mind-

    For the last five years have satellite measurements indicated that Antarctic ice extent indicated
    A) Ice extent has been above the 20 year average
    B) Ice extent has been below the 20 year average
    C) the intellectual overlords are not concerned with mere measurements

    Comment by pahoben — September 13, 2011 @ 7:26 pm

  12. Counter intuitive but true-the efficiency of solar panels decrease with increasing temperature. The idiocracy was responsible for faiilure of Solyndra due to increasing air temp and decreasing solar panel efficiency. The Great Man was not responsible for seemingly foolish support to an idiotic business model. We the idiocracy are fully responsible for this evaporation of 500 million $’s. When will we learn. When will we do better and not disappoint. Maybe overlord Sublime Oblivion will help us do better.

    Comment by pahoben — September 13, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  13. S/O you forgot that the Texas drought is payback for the Russian drought of 2010. To paraphrase SWP’s hero Slim Pickens’ “Gentlemen, this is it, toe to toe weather manipulatin’ wildfire creatin’ combat with the Russkies.” It’s HAARP versus the Russian array ionosphere near Nizhny Novgorod. At least that’s what the next Coast to Coast AM guest is gonna say.

    Comment by Mr. X — September 14, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  14. Thanks for the wonderful quote X. He would have made one heckuva foreign affairs analyst on Fox.

    Comment by pahoben — September 14, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

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