May 6, 2009

National Geographic Rains on the Global Warming Parade

Monique Chartier

... though snows would be the more accurate verb. Ha! (Additional silly jokes supplied upon request.)

The sun is the least active it's been in decades and the dimmest in a hundred years. The lull is causing some scientists to recall the Little Ice Age, an unusual cold spell in Europe and North America, which lasted from about 1300 to 1850.

The coldest period of the Little Ice Age, between 1645 and 1715, has been linked to a deep dip in solar storms known as the Maunder Minimum.

During that time, access to Greenland was largely cut off by ice, and canals in Holland routinely froze solid. Glaciers in the Alps engulfed whole villages, and sea ice increased so much that no open water flowed around Iceland in the year 1695.

Of course, N.G. solicits the other side of the argument. (Would that more publishers of global warming articles did so.) To start with, an AGW devote accuses skeptics of infringing on the specialty of AGW advocates.

"[Global warming] skeptics tend to leap forward," said Mike Lockwood, a solar terrestrial physicist at the University of Southampton in the U.K.

Hey, no problem. We'll stop looking forward if you do.

Lockwood then goes on, remarkably, to make the case that the measly 6% of greenhouse gases generated by man (the other 94% being supplied by Mother Nature) has a greater influence on Earth's climate than the Sun.

I think you have to bear in mind that the CO2 is a good 50 to 60 percent higher than normal, whereas the decline in solar output is a few hundredths of one percent down. ... I think that helps keep it in perspective.

Perspective? Try this for perspective. The sun sends 29.4 Megajoules of radiation to every square meter of the Earth's surface every day. (No, I have no idea what a Megajoule equates to. It just sounds impressive because it has the word "mega" in it.) Now, how many Megajoules does man's CO2 equate to? Again, I have no idea. But it isn't in the realm of what the sun sends us.

Still not convinced? I don't blame you, after that bit of incomplete science. Let's compare the impact of man's carbon versus the impact of the sun another way. If man altogether ceased generating carbon, what would the effect be on our climate? on the planet overall? Well, we know the answer to that. Or at least, AGW advocates claim to know. They say it is man's carbon that has warmed the Earth one one hundredth of a degree a year for the last 120 years. This is the global warming part of the theory of anthropogenic global warming. So, using this measure, the worst thing that would happen if man stopped generating carbon is that the planet would be one one hundredth of a degree cooler every year.

Now, what would happen to our climate - to the Earth - if the sun altogether ceased burning?

Thank you, Your Honor. No further questions.

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Hi, Monique...
Just a minor clarification. While it is true that natural processes are responsible for 210.2 billion metric tons of C02 *emissions* per year, compared to 7.2b for anthropogenic processes, you did leave out the other half of the equation: natural carbon sinks can and do *absorb* 212.4B tons. That is, the earth, minus anthropogenic carbon, is roughly in equilibrium. See:

Also, just a point about your "if you stopped now" argument. That assumes a purely linear effect, and reasons by analogy from things which respond in a one-to-one way to the input. If you stop pushing a swing, it will slow down and stop. But anyone who has looked at a weather forecast knows that the atmosphere is not a linear system. There are feedback loops, like the melting of North Polar ice which exposes greater water surface area to absorb all those megajoules of solar energy.

We might differ about the ultimate conclusions, but I think we should be able to agree that oversimplifying does not serve anyone's interest.

Best Regards.

Posted by: John McDaid at May 7, 2009 8:54 AM

The trouble with numbers like 29 megajoules is that 99% of the people don't know whatinhell they mean. But through long use, they do understand watts and kw-hrs from their electric bill. Joules are energy; watts are the rate at which energy is produced or consumed. A watt-hour is 3600 joules; a kw-hr is 3.6 megajoules. So every day the sun send us a little over 8 kw-hrs for an area a little over 10 square feet. If a 750 megawatt power plant sits on a 20 acre industrial park, it produces about 750 megajoules per day per 10 square feet of area taken, and does so reliably, even when its dark or overcast.
If you were a world class endurance athlete, you could produce on the order of 1/2 kw-hr before you were completely knackered. I think that's a generous estimate - I remember reading that Eddy Merckx - the Lance Armstrong of his day - could produce 1/2hp (about 400W) for less than an hour.

Posted by: chuckR at May 7, 2009 10:41 AM

Let's test your theory. The sun produces a bagillion mega whatevers versus your furnace's pathetic output. Therefore there's no way your furnace could be affecting the temperature. Temperature variations experienced in your living room must be a product of normal variations in solar activity! This can be proved by observations of limited timeframes - just look at the last few seconds... no effect! Why are you wasting all that money on fuel? There's no way to know for sure, no matter what those eggheads say.

Kidding aside, as a partisan I strongly urge all Republicans to keep up the strategy of railing against the scientific community (as a human being I'd rather you didn't).

Posted by: Russ at May 7, 2009 3:47 PM

Russ, Russ, Russ

Those eggheads? They are actually Lysenkoists.

Posted by: chuckR at May 7, 2009 8:03 PM
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