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Space Science

Cosmic Rays and Global Warming 548

Posted by kdawson
from the yet-another-theory dept.
Overly Critical Guy writes "The former editor of New Scientist has written an article in the TimesOnline suggesting that cosmic rays may affect global climate. The author criticizes the UN's recent global warming report, noting several underreported trends it doesn't account for, such as increasing sea-ice in the Southern Ocean. He describes an experiment by Henrik Svensmark showing a relation between atmospheric cloudiness and atomic particles coming in from exploded stars. In the basement of the Danish National Space Center in 2005, Svensmark's team showed that electrons from cosmic rays caused cloud condensation. Svensmark's scenario apparently predicts several unexplained temperature trends from the warmer trend of the 20th century to the temporary drop in the 1970s, attributed to changes in the sun's magnetic field affecting the amount of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere."
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Cosmic Rays and Global Warming

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  • by timmarhy (659436) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:22AM (#17979182)
    oh noes he discredited the cult of global warming! he MUST be in the pocket of big business.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      While it is possible that he is wrong, it wouldn't be the first time one guy turned out to be right over the establishment, anyone remember a man a long time ago called Galileo Galilei.
      • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:28AM (#17979226) Homepage Journal
        anyone remember a man a long time ago called Galileo Galilei.

        Indeed! The fact that men like Galileo exist is proof that every lone nutter with a theory is utterly correct!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          And by this line of thought if this man turned out to be wrong, it would be a valid argument against gravity? All I'm saying is if his work has merit he won't be considered a crackpot for long, and it makes it worth at least looking at his claim.
          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:32AM (#17979974) Journal
            "....it makes it worth at least looking at his claim"

            It has been looked at [realclimate.org], and will definitely be "looked at" again iff someone were to come up with a new idea.
            • by Dilaudid (574715) on Monday February 12, 2007 @09:23AM (#17981686)

              It has been looked at, and will definitely be "looked at" again iff someone were to come up with a new idea.
              It's been looked at by a climatology blog with a history of slagging off anyone who disagrees with them. I think he meant serious, peer reviewed investigation.

              From the blog:

              At RealClimate, we've often criticised press releases that we felt gave misleading impressions of the underlying work and lead to confused, and sometimes erroneous, headlines, but this example is by far the most blatant
              The most blatant press release - probably since the last ice age?

              It's as though Svensmark and co. want to enhance the field of solar-terrestrial research's bad reputation for agenda-driven science.
              In case the writers didn't know - environmentalists are also widely regarded as having a bad reputation for agenda-driven science, hence the title "the cult of global warming". They may be right, but blogs like this don't help.
              • evil boogey-men (Score:4, Informative)

                by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday February 12, 2007 @06:39PM (#17989370) Journal
                "I think he meant serious, peer reviewed investigation"

                Have a look again, RC is attacking a PRESS RELEASE similar to the PRESS RELEASE that is TFA. If this guy (or anyone else) publishes a paper on cosmic rays and climate I am sure it will be treated with more respect.

                "In case the writers didn't know - environmentalists are also widely regarded..."

                Perhaps RC contributors are also evil boogey-men "environmentalists" in their spare time, but they are climatoligists first and foremost. The guy who started the blog is the hockey stick guy [realclimate.org] and has been a lead authour in the IPCC reports, many of the contribitors also have a long list of current peer-reviewed publications under their belt, there is a bio for all of them on the site and (unlike psuedo-skeptical sites there is a prominent list of "other opinions. OTOH: The guy in TFA is a journalist who's claim to fame is that he was once the editor of New Scientst.

                Having said that I doubt it will slow you from dogmatically defending a psuedo-skeptical press release in the face of overwhelming contra-evidence.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by ajs (35943)
              Actually, the linked article is fairly good for Real Climate. They do the usual dance of trying to demonstrate that anyone who doesn't want to throw all SUVs into the ocean can't be a real scientist (while villifying anyone who works on studying the Sun), but they do cover well the VAST gulf between this theory and a practical resolution to the warming trend of the last century. This work in no way ANSWERS any questions.

              It does shed some light on some areas of uncertainty, and that's a good thing. I quote R
        • by timmarhy (659436)
          because you seem extra slow and posted the same thing below, i'll say it again. he was part of a team. not a lone nut. READ THE FUCKING ARTICLE.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Broken scope (973885)
          I may have read it wrong, but I don't think his theory accounts for every bit of the temperature change.
        • by digitig (1056110) on Monday February 12, 2007 @07:01AM (#17980934)

          No, Galileo is proof that a lone nutter with enough theories can fluke it occasionally. After all, most of Galileo's crank theories have been quietly forgotten, and what Galileo got into trouble with the authorities for wasn't so much for resurrecting the (then) long discredited heliocentric theory, but rather for suggesting that anybody who disagreed (up to and including the Pope) was a simpleton.

          So what we really need to learn from Galileo is that just because a theory is espoused by a lone nutter doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday February 12, 2007 @10:27AM (#17982290) Homepage Journal
            In my heart, I really hope this global warming stuff isn't due to human activity. As someone who drove a Dodge SuperBee back in the late 70's, I'd hate to think I contributed to such a global catastrophe. But from a practical standpoint, it makes some sense that more than a century of toxic emissions might cause some problems on the planet. Drive I-80 East past Gary, Ind and tell me you don't think human activity can mess up the environment. Do it without holding your nose for full effect.

            And those of you who like to throw Galileo's name around in support of your agenda, just remember, NOT EVERYONE IS CONVINCED. [catholicintl.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by elrous0 (869638) *
          For those of you skeptical of the powerful effects of cosmic radiation, don't forget what happened to Dr. Reed Richards [wikipedia.org].

          -Eric

      • Galileo Galilei (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anne Honime (828246) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:32AM (#17979972)

        Just to nitpick, but Galileo Galilei wasn't the first nor the only one to describe heliocentrism - Nicolas Copernic was the forethinker of that system, and Galileo Galilei main discoveries (Saturn's rings, Jupiter's satellites, physics of the pendulum etc.) weren't in the line at his trial. Actually, most of the learned scholars of the time knew for a fact that heliocentrism gave far more accurate mathematicals results to build sailing tables.

        Galileo Galilei faced troubles because he wrote that helliocentrism was the physical TRUTH. He would have escaped any trial (and was offered a plea bargain as a matter of fact) had he accepted to write that heliocentrism was a mere hypothesis. But he refused and the rest is history. As to know why he was so stubborn, we now know there was a mix of self-pride, and insurance he received from high profile individuals among the Catholic Church that the Pope was considering adopting a progressive doctrine. That turned out to be deceptive. Basically, he was caught in the middle of a political fight, and sided with the wrong persons.

        • The Copernican model didn't offer very good astronomical predictions compared to the most sophisticated Ptolemaic models. When Galileo saw Venus go through complete phases (full -> new -> full), it pretty much convinced anyone conversant in astronomy that geocentrism was wrong. Why? Because in a geocentric system Venus can't go through all the phases; only half the phases depending on whether it's inside or outside the Sun's orbit.

          Still, Ptolemaic models with their fancy epicycles within epicycles
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CptPicard (680154)

          Galileo Galilei faced troubles because he wrote that helliocentrism was the physical TRUTH. He would have escaped any trial (and was offered a plea bargain as a matter of fact) had he accepted to write that heliocentrism was a mere hypothesis

          History seems to be repeating itself. Galileo was essentially required to put a sticker on his book's cover saying that "heliocentrism is just a theory; one among many and needs to be considered critically because of this"...

      • by logicnazi (169418) <[logicnazi] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday February 12, 2007 @05:00AM (#17980396) Homepage
        Yah, and every day every physics department in the world recieves letters from nutters who think they've discovered the ultimate theory of everything in their basement.

        So sure is it logically possible this guy is right and the rest of the scientific establishment wrong? Sure, though there are some quite compelling [realclimate.org] reasons not to think cosmic rays explain climate change. It's also logically possible that Xenu really did bring 50 billion aliens to earth on DC-10s and kill them with hydrogen bombs. Do you think we should plan for the future based on mainstream science or the threat from the thetans?

        The question is how likely is this guy to be right. Now if you happen to be a climate scientists you should evaluate that based only on the merits of the idea, i.e., the evidence for it. If you don't read climate science papers and keep up with the subject it is just idiotic for you to evaluate the merits of his theory. Instead you have to compare the credibility of the vast vast majority of the scientific establishment and a few dissenters. There isn't much of a contest here.

        Let's put the issue a little bit more concretely. Suppose some guy comes up to you with a proposal to mine gold based on a new process for leaching it from rocks other companies are ignoring. He wants you to invest money in his company but when you consult experts in chemistry, mining and geology they all tell you he is a complete quack and his idea is completely bogus. Would you invest?
        • by bogjobber (880402) on Monday February 12, 2007 @06:05AM (#17980686)
          If you don't read climate science papers and keep up with the subject it is just idiotic for you to evaluate the merits of his theory. Instead you have to compare the credibility of the vast vast majority of the scientific establishment and a few dissenters.

          Here's a thought: if someone presents a seemingly valid hypothesis and you aren't expert enough to assert if it is false or not, you either attempt to gain more knowledge or you reserve judgment. I know the appeal to authority thing is always in vogue, but that is not the rational reaction. Science is always wrecking accepted viewpoints. Very often those "few dissenters" prove the established majority wrong. You shouldn't dismiss arguments solely on the basis of current popularity. Climate change is still very much a science undergoing constant changes and revisions. It is very possible that many of our current theories are false. I'm not saying he's right or anything, but that is horrible, horrible argument you're making.

          You always, always, evaluate the merits of the theory. If you can't and are incapable of making that judgement, then you shouldn't.

    • It's well know that the decline of seafaring pirates correlates the rise of global warming me hearties. sunspots too
      • FSM link (Score:4, Funny)

        by goombah99 (560566) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:43AM (#17979342)
        It surely be pirates [venganza.org], jim lad. Never a truer tale been told. All this shows is that pirate decline may be associated with cosmic rays.
        • Re:FSM link (Score:4, Funny)

          by Walt Dismal (534799) on Monday February 12, 2007 @02:35AM (#17979652)
          It can't be pirates, because my friends from the planet Xenon told me it is indeed cosmic rays. See, when they visited me last month, they said "Your planet is being warmed because cosmic radiation is affecting the atmosphere." I said "Wow! You came all the way here to tell me that?" But the big gray one said "No, actually, we came because our scientists also said the PS3 was the most advanced computer on Earth, and we wanted to buy one, but there was a big line and Circuit City was all sold out when we tried." I asked, "The same scientists who told you about cosmic rays?" and he said "Yes. But we got a raincheck from the clerk. And then he sold us something called an 'iPod'. He said it was cooler than an anal probe."

          I have a few doubts about the cosmic ray advice, frankly. But, yes, iPods are cooler than an anal probe.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by edwardpickman (965122)
      He's pointing out another possible contributing factor. There are lots of them including volcanic activity. The one thing none of it adequately accounts for is the spike in CO2. No one is disputing the CO2 spike is manmade. All the other factors are within normal levels and would not account for an unpresidented spike in CO2. If he was working for corporate america he'd claim Spotted Owls were causing the CO2 and cutting down the forests would reduce the number of the little CO2 machines. No reputible sourc
      • Pedantry (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:12AM (#17979854) Homepage Journal
        >there is a well established correlation between CO2 levels and temperature.

        It's a superb correlation, the curves track each other amazingly.

        By itself that doesn't prove anything. Given only the correlation, you couldn't rule out that temperature increases cause increased CO2 levels. Which is plausible, since organic decay releases CO2 and goes faster when it's warmer (if you doubt that, unplug your refrigerator and see what happens).

        Given only the correlation, you couldn't rule out that some other factor causes both warming and CO2 increases.

        The reason to think it's causal is that there's a well-demonstrated mechanism and that the details match up.

        >Florida may be the first state in the union to give fish the right to vote.

        Hey, we already know all about Florida elections.
        • Re:Pedantry (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:31AM (#17983094)

          By itself that doesn't prove anything. Given only the correlation, you couldn't rule out that temperature increases cause increased CO2 levels.
          Indeed, it is likely that temperature increases cause increased CO2 levels. A more significant cause than accelerated organic decay is the reduced ability of oceans to take up atmospheric CO2.

          However: increased CO2 levels also cause temperature increases. There is a positive feedback mechanism at work.

          The basic idea is that some effect causes a temperature increase, which in turn causes CO2 levels to increase, but those increased CO2 levels force the warming to continue where it otherwise would have leveled out. This warming/CO2/warming cycle continues until you hit other negative feedbacks which stop the warming.
      • by letxa2000 (215841) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:12AM (#17979860)

        No reputible sources are disputing global warming and that humans are the cause.

        RTFA. From the article:

        After long delays in scraping together the funds for an experiment, Svensmark and his small team at the Danish National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005. In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.

        Those 5 sentences say soooo much that so many people would like to ignore. 1) That there is a very major factor involved in cloud formation that, if anything, the IPCC is paying less attention to. 2) That the "peer reviewed" journals are indeed rejecting valid research that contradicts the herd mentality of human-induced global warming. 3) Contrary to what some people would like to believe, not all real scientists agree with the IPCC version of global warming. 4) These three things combined really DO undermine a heck of a lot of what the IPCC and their ilk is campaigning behind.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by fyngyrz (762201) *

          I hereby revoke your tree-hugging license for use of facts without intention to mislead. Please report to your neighborhood global warming organization for immediate compositing.

        • by sunwukong (412560) on Monday February 12, 2007 @05:45AM (#17980606)
          RealClimate discussed [realclimate.org] these results back in October ...
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            You've got to be the 500th person to link to RealClimate. Is RealClimate the Jesus of global warming or something?

            All RealClimate did was claim that the cloud condensation "building blocks" weren't necessarily large enough and that further research was required. That's hard to do when nobody will publish your work and all the alarmist climatologists are getting the funding because they've latched onto the "greenhouse gases" trend where all the political donors are.
      • by gundersd (787946) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:31AM (#17979970)
        There may be a correlation, but that doesn't mean that there's a cause-effect relationship between CO2 levels and temperature. I've seen it argued that due to things like the 800 [realclimate.org] year [ucsd.edu] lag [blogspot.com], it's unlikely, at least for the first 800 years of the cycle, that CO2 *causes* the temperature increase, and in fact in previous cycles it's probably been the other way around. One theory I read was that with increased temperature the oceans lose their ability to trap CO2 so it gets released into the atmosphere. (Note that the first link I gave above explains why high CO2 levels may still be a problem despite this). Anyway, all I wanted to say was that the relationship is no doubt many times more complex than Al Gore and some other alarmists would have you believe. P.S. I think it's worth pointing out that I'm not a supporter of big-oil or corporate interests or anything like that. I'm only interested in having the full story told. Regardless of the debate I'm still doing everything in my power to reduce my personal contribution to CO2 emissions because I'd rather not take any chances with this planet that we call home. I'd love for it to still be able to support a diversity of life for many years into the future.
      • by mstone (8523) on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:19AM (#17980200)

        ---- No reputible sources are disputing global warming and that humans are the cause.

        Uh, think again.

        There's a fairly solid consensus that global mean temperatures have gone up about 1.5C in the last hundred and fifty years. There's good proof that humans are putting a significant amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. There's still a lot of room for discussion of how much effect anthropogenic CO2 has on the global mean temperature, though.

        Most scientists say, "at least some," but it's hard to pin anyone down to specific numbers. First and foremost, we don't understand the atmosphere well enough to say we know what acounts for natural variation. We know very little about the cloud system, for instance, which has a significant effect on planetary temperature.

        If you want to make scientific statements about anthropogenic global warming, you need to be able to answer the following questions:

        1. What's the margin for error in the sample data, both for historical temperature levels and historical CO2 levels?
        2. What's the standard deviation of the historical temperature data?
        3. What's the exact coefficient of correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global mean temperature?

        All measurements have some error, and you can't make meaningful statements about numbers smaller than that error. For most scientific work, an error margin of 5% is considered acceptable. I don't happen to know the error for converting 500-year-old tree ring data to global mean temperature, for instance, but I'd be surprised to find it less than 5%. The same is true for extrapolating global CO2 levels from a microliter of prehistoric gas trapped in an ice core sample.

        By the same token, all real data populations have some amount of variation. It might be very small, or it might be very large. Statistically, about 2/3 of a sample falls within one standard deviation (aka: sigma) of the average. That means a variation of less than one sigma is 2/3 likely to be perfectly natural, and only 1/3 likely to be caused by external factors.

        And finally we have coefficient of correlation. A CoC of .95 means that when factor A goes up, factor B also goes up 95% of the time. Again, it's scientifically invalid to claim correlations greater than your CoC.

        So.. the scientifically valid way to discuss anthropogenic global warming is to say it's X% certain that anthropogenic CO2 accounts for Y degrees of variation in global mean temperature, plus or minus Z degrees of error.

        And let's face it, when you carve out a 5% error for basic measurement, figure a standard deviation of between .4C and .75C in the historical temperature data, then factor in a CoC of .8 or so (which is generous for real-world science), there isn't much room left for sweeping pronouncements. If you want to be 95% certain that Y degrees of variation are due to human-produced CO2, you have to set Y somewhere around .1C.

    • by tscoreninja (918920) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:52AM (#17981472)

      he MUST be in the pocket of big business.
      Actually he probably wants to promote the book he is going to publish. So he definitely is in it for the money. Also, he selectively quotes results, while omitting contrary findings. Just a few aspects from the artikel:

      While sea-ice has diminished in the Arctic since 1978, it has grown by 8% in the Southern Ocean.... Why is east Antarctica getting colder?" It makes no sense at all if carbon dioxide is driving global warming.
      Other sources [guardian.co.uk] present a completely different picture :

      'The greatest temperature rise on Earth over the past five decades has been found on the Antarctic peninsula, which stretches north from the continent towards South America,' said Dr John Turner. 'Temperatures have risen 5C on the peninsula.' That figure is 10 times the average global temperature rise for the same period. In addition, researchers reported last October that in just over a month, an entire Antarctic ice shelf, bigger than Gloucestershire, had disintegrated and disappeared, with its loss directly linked to man-made global warming.
      Also, why does not he mention the fact that the original Svensmark paper has been disproofed? His claim

      But more than 10 years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism. He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds.
      is simply wrong: See Damen and Laut, 2004 [agu.org], available at http://www.realclimate.org/damon&laut_2004.pdf [realclimate.org]

      An update with the correct data (from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Program,ISCCP) shows that the development of total global cloud cover since 1992 has been in clear contradiction to the hypothesis proposed by the authors
      So decide for yourself how unbiased the author is.
  • USE=brain (Score:5, Informative)

    by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:27AM (#17979218) Homepage

    Before you people start screaming, "what do they expect us to do about cosmic rays??//?/?" Think. This isn't about "debunking" global warming, nor is it about fearmongering about it. It's about building more accurate climate models.

    Move along.

  • by Reverse Gear (891207) * on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:27AM (#17979222) Homepage
    I have had some classes on this theory at university.

    This being a somewhat new theory everything is still quite uncertain how much effect this has on the heating of the earth.

    I think the estimates we saw in class a year ago was that this could explain from 10% to maybe 30% of the heating that has happened in the last 30 years.

    We don't have measurements of the amount of cosmic radiation from more than something like 30 years so it is hard to go further back to check this theory.
    We have CO2 measurements from somewhat longer, but not that much longer, but we have trapped air in the ice cores which give us information almost 100K years back which gives the evidence of CO2 and methane quite strong support.
    Cosmic radiation does is not "trapped" anywhere in the geologic layers to my knowledge.

    I am no saying Svensmarks theory is wrong, it most likely has an effect, but how big this effect is is very hard to say by now.
    Anyhow I think the critique of the UN-report is justified, if this theory is not part of the report. Not taking this theory into account and then saying there is a 90% certainty that humans have caused global warming is not scientific.
    • Cosmic radiation does is not "trapped" anywhere in the geologic layers to my knowledge.
      You are correct. However, there is some nonzero chance that information about the sun's magnetic field might be present in the geologic layers... Thinking about it a little more, likely not. More likely that that information would be found in rock of another solar-system object, one which doesn't have a strong magnetic field of its own.
      • by Prune (557140)
        Thinking about it a little more, likely not.

        Why did you correct yourself and leave your mistaken assumption in the first sentence without erasing it before posting?
    • by starman97 (29863) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:39AM (#17979304)
      Cosmic rays are basically high energy nuclei, which include essentially all of the elements in the periodic table; about 89% of the nuclei are hydrogen (protons), 10% helium, and about 1% heavier elements. They are accelerated to between 40% and 99% of the Speed of light, or between 100Million electron Volts to 10GeV, this must leave some sort of chemical or isotopic signature on things like organic molecules in ice cores.
      Sort of like the carbon14/12 ratio which is used to date formerly living things.

      If the Cosmic Ray flux has changed substantially over a few thousand year period, there should be some way to test for it's effects.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kestasjk (933987) *

      Not taking this theory into account and then saying there is a 90% certainty that humans have caused global warming is not scientific.

      I haven't read the draft of the latest report, but I did read the 2001 one.

      There's a graph showing the effect they think various potential influences had, listed along with our scientific understanding of them. Solar influence was at the far right of the scale of our scientific understanding (at the lowest level), and was listed as having a comparatively small heating eff

  • wait! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Simon Garlick (104721) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:31AM (#17979254)
    I for one refuse to comment on this subject until Michael Crichton tells me what is right!
  • Seems familar... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:35AM (#17979276) Journal
    Also, pretty much summed up in a recent Mark Steyn [suntimes.com] commentary.
  • by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:48AM (#17979390)

    All those crazy "climate change has nothing to do with carbon levels" crackpots are going to have a field day. And all the "Yes it bloody well does!!" crackpots are going to get all defensive and who's going to win in the end? The trolls. That's who. The trolls.

    In all this I'm reminded of a mock argument I heard on the radio between a geologist and a biologist about the source of oxygen in out atmosphere. Both "experts" were convinced that it was largely due to some effect described in their field of study and dismissed the other.

    What I'm trying to say is that there is solid evidence that carbon in the atmosphere can trap heat. If we now discover that cosmic rays are warming the planet, that doesn't exclude the effect of carbon as an insulator from the equation. Now if both theories are true we have a serious problem. Cosmic radiation is warming the planet at a higher rate and carbon is preventing it from cooling.

    What do we do about it?

    1. Reduce carbon emissions.
    2. reduce Earth's exposure to cosmic rays

    If reducing cosmic rays can be done along the lines of Mr. Burns blocking out the sun with his big dish, I'm all for it, as long as I'm the one who owns the dish. Otherwise, with sincere apologies all the "I'm gonna fcsking well drive my big Ford SUV 2 blocks to buy my cheese in a can" crackpots, but it has to be option 1.

  • I'll wait... (Score:5, Informative)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:50AM (#17979394)
    ... until the experiment has been independently reproduced and there is some more data on whether and how much cosmic radiation affects our climate. So far, there is one paper on this topic (July 2002 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics), and not much else. The experiment is interesting, but rather tenuous in its conclusions. We have a potential mechanism, along with some ways on testing the validity of its predictions. But it's far too early to make this anymore than it is - an idea that needs further exploring.

    Besides, can we link to something more than someone's blog? Here's a link that has a lot more substance and not so much speculation: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/02073 1080631.htm [sciencedaily.com]

  • same Nigel Calder? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jonkster (929385) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:57AM (#17979442) Homepage
    This the same Calder often quoted derogatorily on certain websites with anti environmentalist leanings?
    several quote an article "In the Grip of a New Ice Age?" in the National Wildlife Federation's journal, International Wildlife attributed to a "Nigel Calder" in 70's
    the line they like to quote is: "the threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind."
    eg http://www.ncpa.org/ba/ba337/ba337.html [ncpa.org]
    http://www.mises.org/story/2119 [mises.org]
    http://www.heritage.org/Research/PoliticalPhilosop hy/BG1143.cfm [heritage.org]

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:36AM (#17979998)
      > This the same Calder often quoted derogatorily on certain websites with anti environmentalist leanings? several quote an article "In the Grip of a New Ice Age?" in the National Wildlife Federation's journal, International Wildlife attributed to a "Nigel Calder" in 70's the line they like to quote is: "the threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind."

      Interestingly, Wikipedia shows him as indeed the former editor of New Scientist - from the early 1960s. Since then he's been an SF writer, with a respectable list of publications.

      As for "new ice age", within the past few years there has been an article in Scientific American where the author claimed that we would be slipping into an ice age right now, if not for anthropogenic global warming. Unfortunately (according to the author), we're slightly overcompensating rather than keeping the temperature flat.

      As for nukes, as I understand it it was Sagan et al.'s analysis of how a nuclear war could lead to a nuclear winter that got people thinking about the effects of all the stuff we've been putting in the air.
  • My own bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Monday February 12, 2007 @02:00AM (#17979456)
    You know what I hate most about these articles? My own bias is plainly obvious to me.

    When I read something that says global warming is wrong, I want to say yes! Brilliant! When something confirms it, I can't help but think 'alarmist fear-mongering can't-think-for-themeselves idiots.' But at the same time I know those thoughts are ridiculous, and that I don't really have the understanding of all the parameters to make an intelligent decision.

    I guess that's what happens when you politicize a scientific topic. Or maybe I'm just an optimist.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I must admit I often have similar feelings, only in reverse. It is sad, isn't it? At least when you realise what is going on in your head, you can try to account for it...

      That's why we really need to get this whole issue out of politicking and into the hands of experts. General population - politicians and /. readers included - simply does not have enough understanding of the subject for any purposeful rationalising on it.

    • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:03AM (#17979800) Homepage Journal
      The term "global warming" conceals several completely different ideas with completely different levels of evidence and likelihood.

      Only some of the following statements are true or even supported by evidence:
      1. The average temperature of the Earth is going up.
      2. It is likely to continue doing so.
      3. The largest cause is CO2.
      4. The rise in CO2 levels is human-caused.
      5. The results will be catastropic.
      6. The result will be a mass extinction event.
      7. The result will wipe out the human race.
      8. This is proof that our economic system is evil.
      9. We must destroy or replace the foundation of our economic system.
      10. The planet is in jeopardy.
      11. The Kyoto accord should be ratified.

      It's logically consistent to snort with contempt at 8 and 10 while accepting 1-4 pending further data.

      What frosts me (sorry) is that the policy implications don't have to be this politicized. We need a malaria vaccine anyway, regardless of whether the mosquito habitat moves north. We benefit a zillion ways from replacing coal burning by almost anything else. Fuel efficient vehicles are great just in terms of national security alone. Bangladesh is in trouble no matter what we do about future CO2 emissions and we need to make decisions about that (seawall? Resettle? (WHERE?!)).

      >I don't really have the understanding of all the parameters to make an intelligent decision.

      No one person does, but judicious application of "How do you know?" will cut through a lot of garbage and allow intelligent decision though not certainty.
  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Monday February 12, 2007 @02:02AM (#17979470)
    I think most of the global warming crowd conveniently forget that by far the biggest determinant of Earth's climate is this object about 150 million kilometers from us called the Sun.

    If you look at our sunspot cycle (which has been recorded since the 1600's), it should be noted that Earth warms up every time we have many sunspots and cools down when we have few sunspots. The famous Maunder minimum that bridged the 17th and 18th Centuries with very little sunspot activity resulted in seriously cold winters at the higher latitudes, as noted by the Thames River through London freezing over in winter regularly during this period.

    But getting back on topic, scientists have noted that almost every planet in our Solar System is experiencing a warmup during the last 4-5 years. Note that the Martian ice caps are getting smaller and smaller, the atmospheres on our "gas giant" planets are warming up quite a bit, and even Pluto's surface is experiencing warming. That tells us either the Sun is generating a lot of unusual radiation or our Solar System is going through an area of our Milky Way galaxy with higher than normal cosmic radiation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098)

      I think most of the global warming crowd conveniently forget that by far the biggest determinant of Earth's climate is this object about 150 million kilometers from us called the Sun.

      True. You remove the sun, and we turn into pluto. Now quantify that effect. Exactly how much does a change in the output of the sun affect the temperature on the earth? Note: correlation != causation.

      But getting back on topic, scientists have noted that almost every planet in our Solar System is experiencing a warmup during the

  • by Bootle (816136) on Monday February 12, 2007 @02:19AM (#17979554)
    It's too risky to not ALWAYS be looking at worst-case scenarios. For our very survival, we need to assume things are our fault and we must be willing to change, even if it may not be our fault.
  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Geeselegs (905363) <geeselegs@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday February 12, 2007 @02:39AM (#17979678)
    infrared radiation from the sun causes global warming... Who'd have guessed
  • by FuzzyDaddy (584528) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:15AM (#17979874) Journal
    This discussion so far, and the article that prompted it, is a political debate dressed up as a scientific one. What our policies need to be guided by is a scientific debate, and what we, as citizens need, is also to follow the scientific debate.

    What is missing from this forum so far, and from the linked essay, is any link to the actual scientific paper in question. If we are to judge how significant this paper is, and what it means, shouldn't we be taking a look at it?

    The whole drama of hidden agendas, who profits from what, the desires of individuals to get attention and upset people of one political stripe or another, are in the end irrelevant to the questions of "Is human activity affecting the climate" and "What, if anything, do we need to be doing to protect our existence". The drama affects what we end up ACTUALLY doing, so may be very significant to the outcome of the next few hundred years of human history. But our individual responsibilities are to understand the science as best we can, even if we are not climatologists.

    Richard Feynmann used to bemoan the fact that reporters asking him about his work constantly tried to "dumb it down" so the average reader could understand it. His point was that, first of all, all the important stuff got lost in this process, and second, even if the "average" person couldn't follow it, there are huge numbers of scientists, engineers, and others who would be able to grasp the main points if they were actually presented.

    Given the nature of this forum (we're nerds, right?) I'd love to see the actual science... if only Mr. Calder, or any of the other writers on this subject would deign to show us the actual papers, rather than giving us their predigested interpretations.

  • Here we go again (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:43AM (#17980032)
    Cue the climate trolls, both pro and con.*sigh*It is impossible to have a serious discussion about climate change (or any environmental issue) these days. Personally, I more fault the environmental movement for allowing itself to be hijacked by anti-capitalism and anti-globalization movements. However, I don't discount the role of industry wanting to maximize short term profits for a few at any cost (including search for the probable truth). In a way, it doesn't matter. Any piece of science gets immediately picked up and stretched for all it's worth to further a particular agenda. For instance, "cosmic ray flux may influence terrestrial climate" becomes "Man-made global warming is a myth because the real culprit is cosmic rays!"

    Flat out, that's not what the science tells us. What science tells us is that climate is a complicated system with many inputs and feedbacks that we only crudely understand. Even so, we understand enough to know one significant input right now is anthropogenic CO2 emissions. How significant? That is the multi-trillion dollar question.

    See, the question is not yes/no. Our choices are not "We're destroying all life! Dismantle capitalism before it's too late!" vs "we're doing nothing! Burn more coal!" What we're really looking at here is a serious study of how much we're influencing the climate we depend on (climate scientists agree enough to be worried). Following from that, we seriously need to look at the risks and how best to manage them without tanking our economy.

    We have many choices and a lot will depend on the relative significance of our contributions to climate change. We NEED studies like this, not as a tool to discredit global warming, but as a way to refine our understanding to better understand what WE'RE doing, so we can more effectively do the cost/benefit analysis of various scenarios. Unfortunately, reasonable voices are being drowned out by trolls in the warring camps.
    • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Monday February 12, 2007 @09:53AM (#17981956)
      I follow the environmentalist movement, and even the left in general, a bit, and I'm not that familiar with these anticapitalists you speak of. They exist, certainly, but the idea that they run the left-wing is a bit exaggerated. One of my favorite lefty documentaries is The Corporation, and what's relevant here is that the charge usually voiced is that the film is anti-capitalism. Instead, it's actually anti-free-from-accountability-corporations, if you'll pardon an ugly hyphenation. Selling stuff at a profit isn't considered evil, ergo capitalism isn't considered evil. What's considered evil is the insualtion corporations enjoy from responsibility, or rather the insulation investors and businesspeople enjoy from responsibility for the decisions they made along the way to making a buck.

      Attacking the idea that multinational corporations should be given the legal status of human beings, but not the responsibilities of human beings, does not constitute an attack on capitalism. Many people are faulting the left for a position it doesn't generally have (with a few outright communist examples) because, let's face it, the message "we oppose them because they want shareholders to be held responsible for what they profit from" isn't going to sell as well as "they hate capitalism!" This is about as cogent a criticism as saying that Republican Senators who want to debate the Iraq war are trying to help the terrorists. It's an attempt to front-load the argument with the assumption that the criticis of corporate unaccountability actually want to attack capitalism itself.

  • by Budenny (888916) on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:27AM (#17980246)
    There is really no need for accusations about funding and so on. Just answer some simple questions:

    1) Why is East Antarctica cooling?

    2) Why has air temperature apparently stabilized?

    3) What caused the Medieval Warm Period?

    4) What caused the mini Ice Age of the 1700s?

    5) Why in the historical record do temperatures rise before CO2 rises?

    And that's not even getting into the Holocene....

    Well, maybe there is a simple explanation that results in it remaining plausible that the modern warm period is different from the Medieval being due wholly or mainly to CO2 emissions since what, 1850 or so, and not due to whatever caused the Medieval, and will not be followed by whatever caused the Mini Ice Age.

    No, it can only be stopped by our ceasing to emit CO2. Like they suddenly did in 1400...?

    Well, if there is a simple explanation along these lines, it would be very interesting to see someone write it down.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Your questions are talking points from global warming deniers and they have long since been answered. Like the "debate" about evolution, and questions such as the evolution of flagella or the eye, they distract attention from real science and waste people's time answering ignoramuses who refuse to do a little research on their own. Since I've got some free time though, I'll bite.

      1) Why is East Antarctica cooling?

      The mean surface temperature of the entire globe can be increasing even if local areas a

  • by logicnazi (169418) <[logicnazi] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:43AM (#17980344) Homepage
    Do you read the research papers in climate science? If you answered no to both these questions then you shouldn't be trying to weigh the evidence yourself based on what you read in newspapers.

    In any scientific discipline, and particularly complex ones like climate science, it is easy to select evidence (even honestly) to make almost anything appear to be the right explanation. The reason the scientific process works is because it doesn't just let each theory get up and give a stump speech but demands to know how it can answer tough questions and fit consistently with our other knowledge. The question is not, 'would cosmic rays make for a good hypothesis on the basis of our inexpert knowledge,' but 'given the vast body of knowledge scientists have is it plausible that cosmic rays explain climate variation.'

    Thankfully, climate scientists have not only already addressed this question but even written lay explanations [realclimate.org] about it. You can find plenty of other discussions about cosmic rays over on realclimate.org [realclimate.org] and they point out that there is considerable reason to discredit the cosmic ray explanation for global warming.

    What disgusts me about this whole buisness is that whenever something like this comes up a bunch of people who can't be bothered to actually read the journal articles but think they are entitled to second guess the people who have pipe up and complain about how global warming is just a dogma. Like any topic you have a choice. You can either choose to learn enough about the subject to intelligently weigh the evidence, which in this case would mean keeping up with the actual scientific papers not just media summaries, or you can count on experts to analyze that evidence for you and reach your conclusion on the authority of those experts.

    Look it's simple really. Either you can read the scientific papers yourself and argue with the other experts about the evidence or you can argue about which experts are more credible. If you are debating the matter here you are doing the later. So do you really expect anyone to believe that the handful of climate change deniers are more credible than all experts who find the evidence for global warming compelling? If the positions were reversed and it was the deniers who were claiming it was global warming would you believe?

    The worst part of all this is that these very idiots who claim that climate science is just some dogma pose a real threat to important dissent in the climate science community. While we may be sure of the vague outlines of human caused climate change there are many issues that still require vigorous scientific debate but if this debate is jumped on by skeptics as proof that global warming is a fraud then responsible scientists will be more reluctant to publicly express such disagreements.
    • by Budenny (888916) on Monday February 12, 2007 @05:09AM (#17980450)
      Was this meant to be an explanation of what exactly caused the Medieval Warm Period? And what caused the Mini Ice Age? And what the contribution of man-made CO2 was in either case? And why the East Antarctic is cooling? And why air temperatures seem to have stabilised? Not to mention what the Wegman report showed about the statistical inadequacies of the Hockey Stick?

      Telling everyone to shut up and listen to their betters is not going to make this stuff go away.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by argStyopa (232550)
      I agree. Scientists are the only ones who should be allowed to comment. Because scientists are never wrong, never 'shade' their information to fit a conclusion, and never EVER have political biases themselves.

      - Adolf Eichmann.
  • Nir J. Shaviv (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ignis Flatus (689403) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:10AM (#17981276)
    Here's a nice "Cosmic Rays and Climate Change for Dummies" article that has pretty pictures and graphs. At least give it a read before dismissing this. I found it compelling.

    http://www.sciencebits.com/ice-ages [sciencebits.com]

    more on the climate debate: http://www.sciencebits.com/ClimateDebate/ [sciencebits.com]

    Shaviv's personal site: http://www.phys.huji.ac.il/~shaviv/ [huji.ac.il]
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday February 12, 2007 @10:29AM (#17982314)
    the next time my boss looks suspiciously at me when I blame the server outage on sunspot activity.
  • Antartica (Score:5, Informative)

    by wytcld (179112) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:39AM (#17983180) Homepage

    "Why is east Antarctica getting colder?" It makes no sense at all if carbon dioxide is driving global warming.


    One of the co-authors of that study is a friend of mine. He's bemused by how the press has gotten the data's implications entirely wrong. An average increase in global temperatures results - according to all models - in some local average decreases. The overall patterns change.

    Consider the question some must be asking, "Why is there record snow in Mexico, New York now if our winters are warming?" It's because the Great Lakes are warmer than usual because of the unusually warm December and January, so there's more evaporation now that cold winds are finally blowing across, and that becomes snow. Global warming means as a planetary average it snows less (because it's more often rain instead). But locally it may be that Mexico, New York is in for a string of nasty winters.

    It's similar effects we're seeing in Antarctica, where local regions have more snow buildup, or more cold, even though on the large scale major ice shelves are breaking off for the first time in tens of thousands of years.

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