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Sceptics in the White House

August 12th, 2003

This Salon article has a pretty good roundup of the organisations promoting global warming “scepticism”, including funding sources.

For those more interested in the real science on this topic, I’ve run across an excellent hyperlinked resource entitled The Discovery of Global Warming. While the title makes the author’s viewpoint pretty clear, the treatment is admirably balanced. a very short summary

In the summer of 1988, the hottest on record, scientists’ claims that the Earth’s warming was already detectable focused public concern. But the many scientific uncertainties, and the sheer complexity of climate, made for vehement political debate over what actions, if any, governments should take.

Scientists intensified their research, organizing programs on an international scale. The world’s governments created a panel to give the best possible advice, negotiated among thousands of officials and climate experts. Around the end of the century the panel managed to establish a consensus with only a few dissenters. They announced that although the climate system was so complex that complete certainty would never be reached, it was much more likely than not that our civilization faced severe global warming.

I was particularly interested in the treatment of solar variability, a topic that’s been debated at length in the blogosphere.

The crucial para

The import of the claim that solar variations influenced climate was now reversed. Critics had used the claim to attack regulation of greenhouse gases. But if the planet reacted with such extreme sensitivity to almost imperceptible changes in the radiation arriving from the sun, the planet had to be comparably sensitive to greenhouse gas interference with the radiation once it entered the atmosphere.

All the essays are extensively hyperlinked, and the references are both extensive and wide-ranging.

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  1. August 12th, 2003 at 22:54 | #1

    John, as per the discussion at Tropo Armadillo, cosmic rays were one proposed mechanism as to how the sun could exert greater than expected influence on the earth’s climate. As cosmic rays are effected by the solar magnetic field, their cooling effect (they induce cloud formation) acts in sequence with solar changes, thus amplifying the effect of solar variability.

    However, recent-ish work by Crowley (Science, p270, v289, 2000) have shown that the correlation of solar and volcanic variability with global temperature variation has dropped with time. When CO2 variability is added to the mix, the correlation with reality improves dramatically.

  2. Greg Bauer
    August 13th, 2003 at 14:28 | #2

    “Scientific American”, June 2003, p.18 refers to Richard C. Willson’s research report in “Geophysical Research Letters”, 4 March 2003.

    The gist is that, although climatic sensitivity to changes in the intensity of solar radiation remains poorly understood, it remains a possible factor and one worth studying.

    Apparently their main finding was that since 1979 there has been an increase of 0.05% in the intensity of solar radiation, and that if this trend is extrapolated backwards to early 20th C, it could account for a significant proportion of global warming.

    None of this, however, militates to relieve humanity of those responsibilities to the planet, and to one another, that are required by a commitment to an enlightened and progressive civilization. We need to work towards the achievement of sufficient flexibility to be able to make those adjustments, that are necessary and possible, to any conditions imposed by the total environment.

  3. August 13th, 2003 at 14:46 | #3

    Greg, this site http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/VariableSun/variable.html explains in some detail Willsons work, and some of the disagreements over it.

  4. rdb
    August 13th, 2003 at 19:17 | #4

    Eurekalert has something on this today :-

    Global warming not man-made phenomenon
    Hebrew University, Canadian scientists cite data from study
    Global warming will not be helped much by efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere, say two scientists who have studied the matter.

    Dr. Nir Shaviv, an astrophysicist from the Racah Institute of Physics of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Prof. Jan Veiser a geochemist at the University of Ottawa in Canada and Ruhr University in Germany, say that temperature variations are due more to cosmic forces than to the actions of man.

    Taking the long-range view, Dr. Shaviv and Prof. Veiser believe that fluctuations in cosmic ray emissions account for about 75 percent of climate variation throughout the millennia. They acknowledge that this position pits them against prevailing scientific opinion, which still places a heavy emphasis on the negative role of greenhouse gases.

    The sensitivity analysis of this would be interesting. Does John’s Data Mining post apply?

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