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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Global warming alarmists still running gov. bureaucracy

The Bush administration continues to be plagued by a climate science bureaucracy built by global warming zealot Al Gore, as seen by today's USGCRP report to congress. The report is not downloading properly at the moment, but if the description in today's NYT can be trusted, it does not stand up to scrutiny.

The studies in the report that point to a human cause for recent warming all involved supercomputer simulations of climate, which have increased in power over the last several years.

The latest analysis, done at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., found that natural shifts in the output of the sun and other factors were responsible for the warming from 1900 to 1950, but could not explain the sharp and continuing rise since 1970.

If the report is relying on computer models, it is a load of crap, because as anyone who has been following the global warming story knows, the biggest development in global warming science has not yet been incorporated into the computer models.

Observers have long noted the marked correlation between sunspot activity and climate (most obviously, between the "Maunder minimum" of sunspot activity and the "little ice age," both readily observable in the 17th centurh, thanks to Galileo's twin inventions of the telescope and the thermometer). The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (whose scientists are running the computer models) has always assumed that sunspots affect climate primarily through their effect on solar luminescence, which is quite small, leading to the conclusion that: “solar forcing is considerably smaller than the anthropogenic radiative forces.” (From the IPCC second assessment report, 1995/6, Working Group I--The Scientific Basis--p. 115.)

In the last ten years, it has been discovered that luminescence is not the primary mechanism by which sunspots affect climate. Rather, climate is affected mainly by the storms of solar wind (of solar-magnetic flux) that sunspots hurl into space. These storms shield the Earth from cosmic radiation that would otherwise ionize the atmosphere and promote cloud formation. In effect, the increased solar wind has the effect of blowing the clouds away, giving the Earth a sunburn.

This mechanism was substantially well understood whent the IPCC's 3rd Assessment Report came out in 2001, but the UN scientists refused to let it intrude on their story that human influences on climate dominate natural ones. They simply set it aside on grounds that "At present there is insufficient evidence to confirm that cloud cover responds to solar variability."

Subsequent discovery of a geological record for sunspot activity has revealed that solar activity has been in a frenzy since the 1940's and is now far higher than at any other known time. This suggests that if the cosmic-ray/cloud cover-mechanism is real, it could easily account for the tiny amount of global warming observed since 1980, and evidence continues to pile up in favor of the cosmic-ray/cloud-cover thesis, with a conference on the subject taking place this week. (A New Scientist article on the conference can be found here.)

The alarmists' computer models still do not incorporate this cloud effect, at least according to the New Scientist article:

...what makes it [the cosmic ray theory] controversial is that climate models used to predict the consequences of rising levels of greenhouse gases do not allow for the effect, and may be inaccurate.

This suggests that the new report to Congress, claiming that people are warming the Earth, is based on models that do not include the Cosmic-radiation/cloud-cover mechanism. This would be especially egregious, given that the NYT story quotes administration official James Mahoney saying that the report reflects:

"the best possible scientific information" on climate change.

The PDF has finally finished downloading (it is a coffee table glossy, full of scenic pictures) so I can now take a look. Not much information--it is more like a sales pitch than even an executive summary--but it does describe in general terms what is included in the models that the USGCRP is referencing, and my above suspicions appear to be borne out:

The simulations show that observed globally averaged air temperatures can be replicated only when both anthropogenic forcings--for example, greenhouse gases--as well as natural forcings such as solar variation and volcanic eruptions are included in the model. (p.47, with reference to fig. 9.)

The language of "solar variation" suggests that the variable employed is variation in solar luminosity. Sunspots are not just "solar variation." They are a separate qualitative mechanism, and one that has not been seen in computer models before. I am pretty sure that if the model builders had made a stunning advance and figured out how to model the consequences of easier cloud formation when sunspots are absent, they would have mentioned it.

What is really telling is the list of plans to improve climate modeling in the future (pp 51-55). It mentions plans for improved understanding of "cloud and water-vapor feedbacks"; for research on "cloud feedbacks and ocean mixing"; lots of prescriptions for improving the infrastructure and resolution of the computer models, but not one word about trying to understand or incorporate sunspot/cosmic-radiation effects. The USGCRP is acting like a bastion of global warming religionists, furiously pretending that this new sunspot understanding, which is ripping the rug out from under the old warming alarmism, does not exist.

Shades of the Swiftvet story, where the old media is struggling with all its might to suppress the story, while the new media is busy doing an end around. This is another story that will be known only by those who follow alternative information channels. Unfortunately, it seems all Bush has managed to do is put a couple of stuffed shirts at the top who are letting the Gore fanatics undeneath them do whatever they want. Signatories Donald Evans at Commerce and Spencer Abraham at Energy are pretty pretty high above such staff reports, but shouldn't they at least be siccing knowledgable people on this stuff? John Marburger, Director of the office of Science and Technology policy, has even less excuse. He ought to be on this personally. He is either asleep at the wheel, or he is a wrong guy.

There is a credible worry that if solar activity falls off from its current highs it could usher in the next ice age, and here the alarmists want to cripple economies around the world in order to put on an infinitesimally cooler jacket of greenhouse gases. The reality is that we have very little idea how warm a jacket we will want to be wearing fifty or a hundred or two hundred years from now. All we can know for sure is that, in facing an uncertain future, our best chance of adapting is if we have a healthy and technologicaly advanced economy. Don't slow the economy down. Speed it up.

The USGCRP claim that anthropogenic forcings are critical for explaining the observed temperature rise of recent decades (which gets smaller with every re-inspection) are taken verbatim from the IPCC's 3rd Assessment Report of 2001. Compare the USGRP's fig. 9 (p.47) to fig. 4 (p.11) from the executive summary of the 3rd Assessment Report (or chap 12, fig.12.7 from the full report). They are identical, including ending in the year 2000. That makes James Mahoney's statement that that the USGRP report reflects "the best possible scientific information" on climate change really despicable. The IPCC report was malfeasent three years ago. With all the progress on sunspots since then, it is completely discredited. Is Mahoney a Gore religionist, or a clueless Bush appointee? Can't the Bush administration figure out that this stuff is important?

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