TCS Daily

Here Comes the Sun

By Lorne Gunter - July 23, 2003 12:00 AM

More proof of the causes of climate change came earlier this month when the Geological Society of America's GSA Today published a study by a Canadian geologist and an Israeli astrophysicist which shows conclusively that over the past half-billion years, the interplay between solar activity and cosmic rays from deep space has caused the periodic warming and cooling of the planet, on a fairly predictable cycle of about 135 million years.

Carbon dioxide, the main culprit in the alleged greenhouse-gas warming, is not a "driver" of climate change at all. Indeed, in earlier research Jan Veizer, of the University of Ottawa and one of the co-authors of the GSA Today article, established that rather than forcing climate change, CO2 levels actually lag behind climatic temperatures, suggesting that global warming may cause carbon dioxide rather than the other way around.

(This may help explain why the planet's temperature began to rise about a century and a half ago, but CO2 levels have only begun to rise noticeably in the past 50 or 60 years.)

What Veizer and his co-author Nir Shaviv, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, discovered is that when cosmic rays strike Earth in abnormally high concentrations, their highly charged particles cause aerosols in our atmosphere to pick up electrical charges, too. These energized aerosols then attract water vapor causing low-level cloud cover to increase.

But when our sun is particularly active, the solar wind it produces "blows" these cosmic ray particles away before they can charge up the atmospheric aerosols, diminishing cloud formation.

This is significant because clouds in the lower atmosphere shield the Earth from solar radiation. They bounce this "insolation" (incoming solar radiation) back into space before it can cause the planet to warm. Thus when cosmic rays are plentiful, so are clouds, and our planet cools.

The reverse is true when our sun is at its most active. Its solar winds keep clouds from forming, thereby allowing more solar radiation to reach Earth and warm it.

Global cooling is greatest typically when Earth is passing through one of the luminescent arms of our Milky Way galaxy. There, new stars are born, mature, and die with stunning rapidity. These unstable stars' lifecycles are often only a million years, rather than a few billion for the average planetary sun. Still, the supernovas they produce when they die propel billions upon billions of high-energy rays into space. When the Earth is anywhere near these stellar fireworks, it picks up added doses of cloud-making cosmic rays -- and cools dramatically.

Veizer and Shaviv calculated that the solar brightening of the past 150 years by itself might account for one-third of the warming during that time. But add to that their new discovery that solar wind gusts prevent the formation of cooling clouds by blocking cosmic rays, and the effects of brightening alone are greatly magnified. (Solar winds were unusually strong during the 20th century.)

So how great is the magnification of solar brightening caused by solar winds' effects on cosmic rays and clouds? Veizer thinks it is enough to explain away all of the warming since the end of the Little Ice Age, without any contribution by carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses. Shaviv worries anthropogenic CO2 may have some fractional effect.

It should have been impossible for over a decade now for the main greenhouse scientists and politicians -- such as the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson -- to dismiss the impact the sun has on climate change. Heck, it is impossible for my son to ignore. He recently completed first grade, where he learned that day is usually warmer than night, direct sunlight warmer than shade, and summer warmer than winter, and all thanks to "Mr. Golden Sun."

So how have the pushers of global warming theory gotten away with pretending the sun has no impact at all (or a negligible one), especially when such internationally renowned scientists as TechCentralStation's own Enviro-Sci Host Sallie Baliunas and her colleague Willie Soon have been convincingly demonstrating for years that solar brightening and other solar activity have a profound, if not the principal effect on climate?

The greenhouse chorus has been able to say that solar activity and carbon dioxide have both been increasing in lockstep with global temperatures, so there is no way to prove one is a "driver" and the other not.

Veizer and Shaviv's greatest contribution is their time scale. They have examined the relationship of cosmic rays, solar activity and CO2, and climate change going back through thousands of major and minor coolings and warmings. They found a strong -- very strong -- correlation between cosmic rays, solar activity and climate change, but almost none between carbon dioxide and global temperature increases.

In an article in the July 14 issue of Canada's National Post newspaper, Tim Patterson, a respected Canadian paleoclimatologist, explains that Veizer and Shaviv "have now provided the missing data." No longer can the pro-Kyoto types in their legislatures or laboratories take cover behind the lockstep excuse.

What adds extra credibility to Veizer's and Shaviv's results is the fact that neither knew the other until after each had reached the same conclusions independently! Veizer was finishing off his research last September, when he received an e-mail from Shaviv suggesting they compare notes. When they met in Toronto last October, they were staggered by the similarities.

This should be good news on two fronts. First, a great mystery has been solved, which is always satisfying. Second, far from being a manmade disaster, the warming we have experienced to date is entirely natural. It is, therefore, unlikely to continue to the point at which it will destroy us. After all, it has been ebbing and flowing every 135 million years for the past 500+ million years. There is also nothing we could do to stop it, even if we tried.

But this will hardly be welcomed. Too many people have too much riding on greenhouse global warming -- research grants, business subsidies, personal prestige, bureaucratic power and political agendas -- to permit another theory to supplant it.

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