Sunday, October 25, 2009

Radical Environmentalism – Global Temperature and Sunspots (Part 9)

The current thinking among environmentalist groups and the teaching in our own classrooms is that global warming is caused primarily by human activity upon the earth. In An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore said, “Making mistakes in our dealings with nature can have bigger consequences now because our technologies are often bigger than the human scale. When you put them all together they made us a force of nature.” A book that I highly recommend, State of Fear by Michael Crichton, discusses and puts to rest the assumption made by nearly everyone five years ago - that global warming is a foregone conclusion, and that the reason is well-known and documented by science. It simply is not a fact. Not yet.

But that book was written in 2004, and in a very short period since then, the theory of global warming has come under a great deal of skepticism – both from science and the general public. There is a growing consensus now that the earth may in fact be cooling, or that warming is not really an issue. This has resulted in a change to the wording we frequently see in the news – from “global warming” to “climate change” (outlined in Part 4 of this series).

Since the assumption that global warming is occurring can be cast into doubt in such a short amount of time, is it not also possible that the idea of human activity as the cause of it all is not also open to debunking? There is a definite trend toward more open thinking on this matter. Perhaps something else is at work in the ups and downs related to climate – something completely unrelated to human activity?

One link that is being made to global temperature is the incidence of sunspots. As sunspot activity increases, so too does the likelihood that global temperature will rise. Conversely, periods of low sunspot activity seem to coincide with prolonged decreases in global temperature. An interesting connection has been made between something called The Maunder Minimum and global temperature.

The Maunder Minimum occurred during a 70-year period from 1645 to 1715. During the lowest point of this cycle - for a 30-year period within the Maunder Minimum - astronomers observed only about 50 sunspots, as opposed to what is typically seen today in that amount of time –40,000 to 50,000 occurrences. What is curious about this is that this seventy year period corresponds exactly with the middle and coldest part of The Little Ice Age. This was an exceptionally cold period in Europe and North America spanning from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Glaciers advanced and rivers froze. Some have speculated that Antonio Stradivari was able to get the unique sound from his violins because the wood he used to make them came from trees which went through a very slow growth period during this time frame (he was born a year before the start of the Maunder Minimum and lived to the age of 93). There is a great deal of evidence that the earth was a colder place during this age.

And there is evidence that sunspots were at a low during this point. So…is it correct to immediately assume that sunspots are really the main cause of global warming and cooling? If I made such an assumption, I would be guilty of the same scientific error that people make when they conclude that warming temperatures, corresponding with industrialization and energy use, prove that man is the reason for any climate change that we see. It’s not good science.

There is a real possibility that sunspot activity is the main contributor to global temperature change. Maybe. Take a look at the picture on the right. How could anyone look at that jet of hot plasma erupting from the sun’s surface (called a plasma ejection or solar prominence) – many, many times the size of our entire planet – and not wonder if other forces completely overshadow any effect that man may have on the earth’s surface. The energy release of that one event is likely greater than the cumulative release of energy on Earth by mankind over the entire course of history. Shouldn’t occurrences like this be taken into account when we speculate about global temperature models?

My suspicion is that humans couldn’t change the temperature of our planet if we wanted to. To think we can change it, without hard proof, is nothing but human arrogance. But again, we should invoke good science before drawing conclusions.
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