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Global cooling effect
|February 16, 2007|
News that the Conservatives might be taking a more cautious approach to Kyoto and climate change could not come at a more appropriate time. The science behind the idea of man-made global warming, always theoretical and often speculative, appears set to receive another blow. A report in New Scientist magazine (click here to download article) chronicles the work of a crew of scientists who forecast a new wave of global cooling brought on by a decline in activity in the sun.
The New Scientist report, along with other scientific assessments warning of global cooling, also come as a blow to the campaign - led by David Suzuki and one of the directors of his foundation - to portray all who raise doubts about climate change theory - so-called skeptics - as pawns of corporate PR thugs manipulating opinion. If the Suzuki claim is true, then the tentacles of Exxon-Mobil reach deeper into science than anyone has so far imagined.
Dramatic global temperature fluctuations, as New Scientist reports, are the norm. A Little Ice Age struck Europe in the 17th century. New Yorkers once walked from Manhattan to Staten Island across a frozen harbour. About 200 years earlier, New Scientist reminds us, a sharp downturn in temperatures turned fertile Greenland into Arctic wasteland.
These and other temperature swings corresponded with changing solar activity. "It's a boom-bust system, and I expect a crash soon," says Nigel Weiss, a solar physicist at the University of Cambridge. Scientists cannot say precisely how big the coming cooling will be, but it could at minimum be enough to offset the current theoretical impact of man-made global warming. Sam Solanki, of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, says declining solar activity could drop global temperatures by 0.2 degrees Celsius. "It might not sound like much," says New Scientist writer Stuart Clark, "but this temperature reversal would be as big as the most optimistic estimate of the results of restricting greenhouse-gas emissions until 2050 in line with the Kyoto protocol."
The New Scientist says this gives the Earth some breathing room in the face of climate change over the next 50 years, but it warns against complacency. "If the Earth does cool during the next sunspot crash and we do nothing [about man-made global warming], when the sun's magnetic activity returns, global warming will return with a vengeance," says Leif Svalgaard of Stanford University in California.
Well, that's one man's view based on his take on the science. But other scientists have differing views. Last month, the Russian Academy of Sciences' astronomical observatory reported that global cooling could develop in 50 years. Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of the agency's space research branch, is reported to have said a period of global cooling similar to one seen in the late 17th century could start in 2012-2015 and reach its peak in 2055-2066. "The Kyoto initiatives to save the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off until better times," he said.
A few excerpts from the New Scientist report appear below, and the full text is available through the magazine's Web site for a nominal fee. Readers can judge for themselves to what degree the magazine's report highlights the need for much greater scientific certainty over the causes of climate change.
Debate over the role of the sun in forcing temperature change is nothing new. Professor Ian Clark of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa, wrote on this theme in this paper in 2004. The climate models used by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change do not take adequate account of solar activity, Mr. Clark said. "Past and recent climate warming can be explained by changes in solar activity," he said.
Another scientist tracking the sun, one among many, was Theodor Landscheidt, the late and renowned German solar expert and forecaster. "Analysis of the sun's varying activity in the last two millennia indicates that contrary to the IPCC's speculation about man-made global warming as high as 5.8 degrees Centigrade within the next 100 years, a long period of cool climate with its coldest phase around 2030 is to be expected."
Worth noting here is Timothy Ball, the former University of Manitoba climatologist and frequent contributor to the idea that official government science is ignoring the role of the sun and that global cooling may be looming, not warming. Mr. Ball, for his thoughts, has become the victim of a slanderous campaign by David Suzuki and his associate, Vancouver public relations guru James Hoggan. They charge Mr. Ball with being a climate change "denier" - as if it were akin to denying the Holocaust. They also portray him, and all "skeptics" who raise doubts about official climate science, as being in the pockets of corporations.
Mr. Hoggan and Mr. Suzuki appear to be the leading backers of a major disinformation campaign run out of the Vancouver offices of James Hoggan & Associates. Mr. Hoggan sits on the Suzuki Foundation board, and among other things somehow funds two full-time researchers to operate a blog that is focused solely on discrediting scientists who do no uphold the official UN view on climate change.
It's all a corporate scam, they claim. "There are people," says Mr. Hoggan, a veteran self-promoting pro in the PR business, "mainly people who are getting paid by oil and coal interests, and [some] who are just basically ideologues, who are trying to confuse the public about climate change." Says Mr. Suzuki: "The skeptics are a small group known for their support of corporations like the fossil fuel industry. In fact, many are receiving money directly from the industry."The New Scientist article, and many other science studies and reports over the years, suggest the Suzuki group is operating an empty political campaign. The Harper Conservatives should fear nothing as they work to set a Kyoto policy.