Given that the Sun powers Earth's climate system and provides the energy for all life on our planet, it should come as no surprise that changes in solar activity can affect climate conditions. Because total solar irradiance varies only slightly, climate scientists have discounted our variable star as a driver of climate change. At the end of the 20th century, Heinrich Svensmark, of the Danish Space Research Institute, and Eigil Friis-Christensen proposed that solar activity may be a controlling factor for climate by changing low level cloud cover. Not surprisingly this idea was disparaged by mainstream climate science, since it would diminish the importance of greenhouse gases, CO2, the IPCC's favorite daemon, in particular. Now, after several years of experimentation at CERN, the preliminary results are in and it looks like Svensmark and Friis-Christensen were right after all.
Much fanfare was associated with the reappearance of sunspots earlier this year, marking the beginning of a new period of high solar activity. Now come a number of reports saying the Sun is most likely headed for a prolonged period of low activity, possibly rivaling the Maunder minimum. Three independent studies of the Sun's dynamics all predict that the next solar cycle will be significantly delayed and might even be skipped. The Maunder minimum is associated with a prolonged period of climate cooling known as the Little Ice Age. Whether Earth's climate is headed for a significant cooling trend has become a matter of heated debate, while at the same time NASA is warning that a quite Sun can also be a deadly Sun. In the 1850s, following a period of low sunspot activity, the largest coronal ejection event ever witnessed caused havoc with telegraphs and ship's compasses around the world. Such an ejection today could cause widespread power outages and failure of electronic equipment. Will our star turn both quiet and deadly?
Recent announcements about failing green companies have mostly flown under the major media radar. After all, when President Obama hops in Air Force One for a quick trip to a green business to make a speech about his administration's nonexistent energy policy that's worth covering—when that green business shutters its doors (after absconding with millions in tax credits) that's embarrassing, to green cheerleaders and the liberal media in general. Sadly, failure to revive the economy not withstanding, many actually believe that, if only we could provide more billions in subsidies, good green jobs would spring up like weeds. The reality is that green business cannot exists without government largess and that green economy we have heard so much about was stillborn—killed in its government funded womb by economic reality.
The ineffective and mostly ignored Kyoto agreement is due to expire in 2012. Climate change activists around the world are girding their loins in preparation for the battle over Kyoto 2, the follow on treaty. Their goal? New regulations for black carbon, methane and driving anthropogenic CO2 emissions to zero. Leaving no bad idea unused, there is talk of implementing a global cap & trade system where developed nations that are able to reduce emissions beyond their Kyoto targets can sell excess reduction credit to other developed nations through the Emissions Trading mechanism. Beyond that, rather than negotiating CO2 emission reduction targets on a nation-by-nation basis—as in the current Kyoto framework—a future level of maximum allowable global temperature increase can be chosen. It is clear that the warmists have made the transition from irrational to delusional.
Beginning in 2008, sunspots almost completely disappeared for two years. Solar activity dropped to hundred-year lows and the Sun’s magnetic field weakened, allowing cosmic rays to penetrate the Solar System in record numbers. More troubling, Earth's upper atmosphere cooled and collapsed by an unprecedented amount. Solar physicists openly wondered what was happening to our neighborhood star. Now, an international team of scientists funded by NASA claims to have figured out what was going on. Their explanation was just published in the March 3, 2011, edition of Nature.
Green advocates and climate change alarmists alike insist that the world shift to using only non-polluting, renewable energy sources, and the sooner the better. What is seldom mentioned is the enormous cost of retooling the world's energy infrastructure to use intermittent, unreliable wind and solar energy. A recent two part paper, appearing in Energy Policy, makes a reasonable attempt at stating the requirements to fix humanity's fossil fuel addiction and go all green. The analysis found that, to provide roughly 84% of the world's energy needs in 2030, would require around 4 million 5 MW wind turbines and 90,000 300 MW solar power plants, with the remaining 16% coming from solar photovoltaic rooftop systems, geothermal, tidal, wave and hydroelectric sources. Some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations show why the world economy cannot afford to go totally green.
One indication of how mature a scam has become is when it starts to attract the attention of trial lawyers. The recent spate of natural disasters has reminded people everywhere of how capricious the forces that govern our world can be. Floods in particular have destroyed crops, houses and lives in Australia, Pakistan, China and Brazil. While climate science remains too immature to blame humans for exacerbating the forces of nature by emitting greenhouse gases, there are ominous signs that climate change alarmists are becoming desperate enough to enlist the unholiest of allies in their cause—lawyers. An editorial in the February 20, 2011, edition of Nature Geoscience cites two new studies which claim to affirm the anthropogenic global warming/extreme weather link, opening the door for future litigation.
As public concern rises over the safety and ecological soundness of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, the nuclear power industry is quietly ramping up to build new, smaller types of reactors that can be deployed as sealed power units. Russia is moving ahead with plans to locate floating nuclear power plants along its northern coast and a French company has designed a small offshore nuclear power plant called Flexblue. At the same time, efforts by the US Department of Energy's Savannah River Site to host a range of proof-of-concept units from several vendors has run afoul of bureaucratic infighting. Around the world, nuclear power is progressing, while former nuclear technology leader America founders.
Climate alarmists have been slow to learn that their over-reliance on computer models and unproven theories has harmed their public credibility. In an attempt to counter the richly deserved bad press that climate science has been garnering these days, a number of global warming true believers are trying a different, more fact based approach to scaring the public. One such attempt recently appeared in the journal Science—not as a paper describing original research but as a perspective article. In it, a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, attempts to “weave together” some carefully selected “threads in the discussion of climate” to arrive at a very familiar and unconvincing conclusion.
To ring in the new year, The Resilient Earth presents a collection of recent journal and news articles regarding climate science. Some are about actual science and others are more in the way of commentary on the state of global warming. New discoveries continue to be made, though the climate change faithful stubbornly refuse to abandon the party line: Earth's temperature is going to rise dangerously and humanity is to blame. Perhaps the most interesting development is that a number of green advocates have given up on avoiding global warming, deciding instead to stress the unfair social impacts that climate change will supposedly cause. At the end of 2010, here is a snapshot of the state of the climate change debate.
The influence of the Sun on Earth’s climate over time scales of centuries and millennia is all but ignored by current climate change dogma, with many climate scientists dismissing solar variation as too feeble to have much of an impact. Though it was recently discovered that variation at ultraviolet wavelengths is considerably greater than at lower frequencies, the change in total solar irradiance over recent 11-year sunspot cycles amounts to <0.1%. New research on longer time scales finds the change in total irradiance sufficient to affect the dynamics of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Detailed model studies of the Little Ice Age (~1400 to 1850 AD) conclude that the Sun controls an “ocean dynamical thermostat” that affects climate variability over large regions of the globe. It was also found that fully coupled general circulation models (GCMs), the kind used by the IPCC to make predictions of future global warming, lack a robust thermostat response. This means that the sensitivity of the climate system to solar forcing is underestimated by current GCMs—the climate models are proven wrong again.
Much has be written and even more said about stopping climate change. The total foolishness of such a quest is obvious to anyone with even the most cursory understanding of Earth's climate over the Past 65 million years. The more science learns about the ever changing nature of climate the more capricious nature appears and the less significant the labors of H. sapiens are revealed to be. To place the ludicrous arguments and unsubstantiated fears of climate catastrophists in perspective, it is instructive to survey Earth's climate since the demise of the dinosaurs—the geological time period called the Cenozoic Era. During this long span of time, Earth's climate has undergone a significant and complex evolution. If one truth has been discovered by human science it is that Earth's climate is always changing, driven, as one set of researchers put it, by trends, rhythms and aberrations—the mechanisms of climate change.
The Alpha Ventus Wind Park is the first of its kind: a deep water wind farm in the stormy North Sea. It is composed of 12 turbines that together will generate 60MW of electrical power. When fully operational, the farm will be able to power 50,000 households. But barely two months after the ceremony opening Germany’s first deep water wind farm, six of the newly installed wind turbines were idle. This was not due to a lack of wind but because of gearbox damage: two turbines had to be replaced entirely, the other four repaired on site. Problems with Alpha Ventus highlight a series of poor decisions—a precipitous move to shut down working nuclear plants, rampant installation of solar cells, and a headlong rush into offshore wind generation among them—that could well have Germany facing blackouts in the not too distant future.
If advocates for green, renewable energy are to be believed, wind farms do not threaten endangered bird species like eagles, hawks and owls. A recent article in Science implies that problems at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in California have been reduced by spacing turbines farther apart and removing turbines from problematic sites. But on-site scientific studies have revealed that the kill rate for all birds, and for birds of prey in particular, have not been reduced and may have even increased. It seems that some eco-activists are so committed to expanding wind power as a way to fight global warming that they are turning a blind eye to the slaughter in the skies. How can these duplicitous greens be trusted if they are willing to drive endangered species to extinction in the name of reduced CO2 emissions?
World wide emission of CO2 from fossil fuel burning decreased by 1.3% in 2009 owing to the global financial and economic crisis says a report in Nature Geoscience. Estimated CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes (LUCs) have also declined compared with the 1990s. The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions was blamed on the contraction of GDP owing to the global financial crisis that began in 2008. Not so fast, say warmist scientists. They claim that CO2 will rise by 4.8% in 2010, proving that what should be treated as good news is not welcome in climate change circles.