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back to article Earth may be headed into a mini Ice Age within a decade

What may be the science story of the century is breaking this evening, as heavyweight US solar physicists announce that the Sun appears to be headed into a lengthy spell of low activity, which could mean that the Earth – far from facing a global warming problem – is actually headed into a mini Ice Age. Average magnetic field …

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Pint

This should be fun.

I've got my popcorn and beer. Let the comments commence....

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Happy

Yep

Should be a 'heated' discussion

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Boffin

Re: Yep

"Should be a 'heated' discussion"

It doesn't get off to a bright start, though:

"This could overturn decades of received wisdom on such things as CO2 emissions, and lead to radical shifts in government policy worldwide."

How solar activity somehow overturns the documented effects of carbon dioxide (and people don't need to start whining about whole-climate-level effects and the jury being out and all that, but just concentrate on the laboratory stuff, if that doesn't rock their little boat as well) remains yet another Lewis Page mystery of science.

Or maybe the reference to overturning "received wisdom" concerns Orlowski, Lawson and pals who may suddenly develop a zeal for bioengineering.

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The Sun drives both the weather and life.

You ideological dog's tail is wagging your ideological dog.

The Sun is the driver of weather and life, CO2 is a trace gas contributing to, but not the chief component of, heat retention.

If you can't understand the Sun is the driver of weather and the giver of life, than it is rather pointless to discuss this issue with you.

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FAIL

Re: The Sun drives both the weather and life.

"You ideological dog's tail is wagging your ideological dog."

So you claim (and the idiotic up/downvoters), but there is no, erm, "ideological dog"...

"The Sun is the driver of weather and life, CO2 is a trace gas contributing to, but not the chief component of, heat retention."

And? I merely noted that carbon dioxide's inherent physical properties are independent of how much radiation our local star happens to be emitting in our direction.

"If you can't understand the Sun is the driver of weather and the giver of life, than it is rather pointless to discuss this issue with you."

If you (and the moronic "uh, I must vote this critic of Lewis Page's prose down 'cause I don't go along with this climate change stuff" voting tribe) can't read, let alone understand what other people have written, I don't want to discuss this or any other issue with you.

And since Lewis posted this - or maybe even before he posted it, given his tendency to sensationalise everything - articles have appeared noting that a new "ice age" or whatever isn't very likely. So I suggest you run along and nay-say all the people who are pointing this out given that it probably upsets your own rather obvious dogma.

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Interesting

Just wait until people start screaming "Denier" at you, AGW is a religion with it's own zealots.

Me? I think you could be right. It was Arthur C Clarke who predicted that we would be burning as much carbon as we caould by the end of the 21st century, to combat the cold

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"Wait until people start"?

Have you not read one of Mr. Page's articles before?

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Coffee/keyboard

Let that strawman burn.

Ummm, I think human-mediated global warming is a real and serious threat. Why on earth would I scream "denier" at the author? This looks like a serious article, based on some serious announcements and data. Fascinating stuff.

It looks like you may be suffering from a touch of religious fervour yourself, however.

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Coat

Denier?

What has this article got to do with “a unit of weight by which the fineness of silk, rayon, or nylon yarn is measured, equal to the weight in grams of 9000 meters of the yarn and often used to describe the thickness of hosiery” … ?

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Devil

@Gary Heard -- Now, now...

Careful,

You've too many fuming religious down-voters, it might be dangerous.

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Assuming that CC is real...

Who wants to take bets on this 10 year reprieve meaning that governments can get their energy policys into a state where we don't all drown when the spots come back?

Anyone? anyone? Buler?

Personally I think the good money is on "pump as much CO2 into the atmosphere until we run out of resources, then hope that the ensueing wars reduce the world population enough that there is still enough land to farm and live on between those remaining"

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@Gary Heard

There's nothing particularly 'denier'-ish about this article.

The only real link to AGW (and anyone that far into the jargon might want to consider how zealous they themselves appear) is that if this prediction is correct then it might be a good thing if man made global warming was real.

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Childcatcher

Denier?

Woman's hosiery? And here I was thinking ancient french coinage. Mine's the one with the numismatist manual in the pocket!

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Boffin

Re

With the graph on the first page this article has more empirical, scientific evidence than the entire global warming argument.

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Wool futures, anyone?

This might account for the cold winter. It seems very real, since sunspot activity reports showed a large reduction even a few years ago, with a late cycle start.

This is good, unemotional science and it looks very plausible. No hype, no billions in carbon offsets, no scientific empires anywhere in sight. We need to look on a broader scale to see if there is corroboration, though reports of falling trends in temperature in recent years suggest we don't need to look far. The problem with a Maunder Minimum is the fast onset. Crops fail, growing seasons get shorter and, historically, people starve. The one difference is that the world has many more people, and is balance on the edge of food shortage already.

I suspect that IPCC and the Global Warming Sect will have a rebuttal, since their rice bowl is being broken, but they had anyways perpetrated a myth of global warming by selective data presentation and careful choice of the graph starting-point, so I'm not very sympathetic.

I wonder if the Nobel committee will also reward a more accurate portrayal of our climate. Perhaps NASA will do a 'March of the Penguins' filmed on the Thames in 2025 to get the prize! I suspect by then, Norway and Sweden will be trying to stay warm enough and won't be in the mood.

Realistically, though, we can't keep relying on oil and gas much longer. Those are limited resources, and we need them for plastics and such. It's time to get into clean, thorium-cycle nuclear power. There's enough thorium around for 10,000 years, and the technology is quite well along. The risk of a accidental release is very low, and the radioactive waste decays quickly, so it sounds like it could be a sensible alternative. The Chinese certainly think so!

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@Jim O'Reilly

>and is balance on the edge of food shortage already

There isn't a food shortage just uneven distribution.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, bad timing for much of...

Europe to be decommisioning their nuclear power plants. Hydro-carbons will certainly be at a premium.

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@Jim O'Reilly

"I suspect that IPCC and the Global Warming Sect will have a rebuttal, since their rice bowl is being broken, but they had anyways perpetrated a myth of global warming by selective data presentation and careful choice of the graph starting-point, so I'm not very sympathetic."

Why would they issue a rebuttal on proven and widely accepted facts? Facts that are not effected by anything that might happen due to this event other than the immediate manifestation in temperature.

Climate change deniers have been claiming point blank that the sun is getting into a hotter cycle causing the recent global warming. They are the ones that may have just been proven as barking up the wrong tree completely.

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More food than ever before

We now have more food per capita than ever before. We're nowhere near starvation.

WHO reports there are now more obese people than hungry people.

We (Westerners) eat about 4 times as much meat as we did 50 years ago and people in Asia have increased their intake of animal protein even more. Meat production is incredibly inefficient with something like 15 food units of input per food unit of meat output. To support this, grain etc output has increased immensely. Meat production is largely a way to keep grain consumption high.

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WTF?

Meat production is largely a way to keep grain consumption high.

What kind of twisted reasoning is that? Meat farmers buy grain and sell meat, because they make a profit. Grain farmers grow grain and sell it to meat farmers because they make a profit. Consumers buy meat rather than grain because they like it better and can afford to pay for it.

As others have pointed out, there is no world food shortage. We could easily produce much more food than we do now, if there was a market for it. Millions of poor people are starving? Sure, but that's because they don't have the money to buy food, not because the food doesn't exist, or couldn't be easily produced. Western governments have been known to pay farmers NOT to produce food.

You might equally well argue that there must be a world Ferrari shortage, because most people haven't got one and can't afford one.

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Maxima to Minima

"Climate change deniers have been claiming point blank that the sun is getting into a hotter cycle causing the recent global warming."

I don't know any who have. We've gone from a period of unusually high solar activity as solar activity ramped up following the Dalton Minimum. As activity increased, it seems to have gotten warmer. Funny that. The Modern Maximum peaked around 1950, then again in 1990. So did warming. Funny that. Now we've been in minima mode for a few years and the rate of global warming has decreased, despite record amounts of CO2. Funny that.

The IPCC didn't think much of solar variability when it cobbled together AR4 and only devoted a couple of pages to it. The assumption was it didn't vary much, so the great space heater in the sky couldn't possibly be responsible for variations in climate. Subsequent data from instruments like SORCE or the observatories show it varies more than originally expected. Solar scientists haven't been the biggest beneficiaries of AGW handouts but still doing research like the stuff reported here. They've now had more opportunity to study solar variability during a maxima, and now into a minima.

Less funny is if Svensmark's GCR theory is correct. Declining Earth magnetic field plus declining solar activity should mean more GCR's, and if they cause negative feedback and more cooling making any Minima worse. Then again, it may all be a bit '70s and a repeat of ice age fears might be exagerated. If it does get cold, it'll also mean datacentres have an easier time cooling.

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@stratofish

Re: Climate change deniers have been claiming point blank that the sun is getting into a hotter cycle causing the recent global warming.

And there was me thinking that it was the opposite and that those claiming warming had to change it to climate change because the warming stopped happening over the last few years.

Now that would tend to support this theory wouldn't it.

Reference: See the comments about having to explain something they couldn't understand in the famous email releases.

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Childcatcher

not right

"There isn't a food shortage just uneven distribution."

I was reading about this a while ago. There are countries where people are starving that are growing plenty of food, but because of global markets , the workers that grew the crops cant afford to buy them.

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Feralmonkey

Um no we have been saying that climate changes and mankind can do piss all to stop it or push it around co2 is the only greenhouse gas that mankind puts into the atmosphere in any real quantities so that was the only thing the warmista's could hang their religion on with the sun going quiet their religion will go just as quiet.

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Trollface

@Charles Manning...

I don't think you really get it.

Look where your farmland is located.

Here in the Midwest of the US... you're going to continue to see more rain and flooding which will have a negative impact on the crops. Its not just the cold temp but the overall weather patterns and timing.

You will see droughts continue where it was once lush farmlands.

You could potentially see blight on crops or cross contamination of bacteria causing food to be destroyed en mass. (See Germany).

I agree this is nothing to panic about, but I don't agree that we will continue to sustain good growing conditions globally.

Its not just a shift in the sun's solar flare rate, but also a shift in the earth's magnetic poles that can have a greater impact that human's CO2 output. But don't tell the doomsday climate 'experts' that.

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The AGW denier "logic" is in effect

Thanks for pointing this out- the AGW deniers can now simultaneously claim that the sun is causing the observed warming, and at the same time that because it is cooling we are in for a new ice age.

All in line with the "sow doubt" strategy which worked so well for tobacco, acid rain, ozone, etc and well documented (with actual references) in the book "Merchants of Doubt".

The aim is not to clarify, and help settle the science, it is to keep everything in chaos and doubt.

I'd love to hear a denier explain how the Sun can be both hotter and colder at the same time!

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Anonymous Coward

Meat vs grain

The issue is that the grain cant be easily eaten by us hence why we have cows etc to eat it and covert it to easy food for us.

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Bronze badge

Hang on

Fossil Fuels are running out, yes Ok there's lots of coal, but it's not very good for your health, ask anyone who lived in London in the 40s & 50s, or bits of China today.

We still need to drastically reduce our reliance on Carbon, global warming or not.

So yep bad timing to get rid of Nuclear. Still the Med. will be OK, they don't need it, lucky for our Italian chums then.

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Headmaster

@stratofish

"Why would they issue a rebuttal on proven and widely accepted facts?"

Because the IPCC is offering a hypothesis that the facts don't support. It's based on the premise that, "Gee, well, we can't think what ELSE it must be other than anthropogenic CO2 emissions, so our money is on anthropogenic CO2 emissions".

You don't appear to know the difference - back to school.

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Headmaster

Everyone off the gravy train!

"The IPCC didn't think much of solar variability when it cobbled together AR4 and only devoted a couple of pages to it."

A true statement - but the itchy warmists have already downvoted it. I detect panic setting in already as the Earth stubbornly refuses to conform to their theory and computer models, which are dependent on unproven feedbacks.

I'll happily accept that man can change the climate, and a doubling of CO2 should raise temperatures by 1C. But runaway warming now looks as likely as Santa's flying sledge.

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Easy

Day and Night !

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Holmes

That's because

The starving people die and the landwhales just place a burden on the health sector that sustains their lumpen lives.

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Construction

And of course, Windfarms are of great benefit to the Mafia because they mean building lots of big concrete towers with a bit of relatively low tech at the top. Whereas they would probably find it a bit difficult to build and then control a nuclear industry...

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Even more relevant that not having the money

to pay for food, is that if you look at most of the places where there are starving people, they have dictatorial governments that stop charitable organizations from going in and 1) distributing food, and 2) teaching them how to grow their own food.

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Re

"Why would they issue a rebuttal on proven and widely accepted facts? Facts that are not effected by anything that might happen due to this."

Because the IPCC is a political organization, not a scientific one. No matter how much the media lies.

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Re: Jellied Eel

Right on brother, good to see some intelligence around.

The IPCC position is that solar activity and the amount of radiation emitted from the sun has no effect on the temperature of the planet. They completely ignore that all of temperature variation is caused by solar activity.

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Boffin

Re

"Thanks for pointing this out- the AGW deniers can now simultaneously claim that the sun is causing the observed warming, and at the same time that because it is cooling we are in for a new ice age.

All in line with the "sow doubt" strategy which worked so well for tobacco, acid rain, ozone, etc and well documented (with actual references) in the book "Merchants of Doubt".

The aim is not to clarify, and help settle the science, it is to keep everything in chaos and doubt.

I'd love to hear a denier explain how the Sun can be both hotter and colder at the same time!"

It's quite obvious that thinking isn't your strong suit so I'll type slowly and refrain from using big words.

The sun was once very active (read very hot) this was in the 1950s. The weather was good, things happened.

The sun stopped being so active (read cooled down) and the media panicked about a new ice age (see 1970s).

The sun started being active again (read got warmer) and the media panicked about burning to death (see late 1990s, early 2000s)

The sun is now becoming less active, for the last 10 years or so. This is a warning that we are heading back into 1970s weather. The cycle has adjusted a bit, but not much. 1950 - 1970 - 1990 - 2010 would be the pattern, but the last "warming" was closer to 2000, meaning the cooling should be around 2020.

We may ramp into that cold cycle MUCH more quickly since it is delayed 10 years or so. In mathematical terms this is close to the concept of regressing to the mean. The average stays about the same, so quick ramp ups are countered by quick ramp downs when you factor in the complete dataset.

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Bravo

I wholeheartedly agree with most parts of your argument, in particular the need for a long term research/energy policy based on Thorium reactors

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Coat

Explanation.

I'm guessing it has to be the 'wrong sort' of chill emitting from the sun which inversely affects the magnetic polarity of the heat and so triggers a cyclic thermal whirl that drives the temperature upwards and simultaneously triggers the generation of an excess of CO2 at a distance of about 90 to 100 million miles away from it, where - by coincidence - there happens to be a planet, the inhabitants of which (having gained a galactic reputation of jumping recklessly to conclusions) have become terminally confused by this seeming paradox.

We're doomed I tell you! Doomed!

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Irony

If it turns out we needs a bit of global warming, in order to counter a maunder minimum it would be somewhat ironic, no? All these green manaics spending trillions (or pushing for trillions to be spent) to save humanity may have actually caused us a massive problem

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

>>"All these green manaics spending trillions (or pushing for trillions to be spent) to save humanity may have actually caused us a massive problem."

I wasn't aware they'd actually caused any great changes in CO2 output yet.

>>"If it turns out we needs a bit of global warming, in order to counter a maunder minimum it would be somewhat ironic, no?"

No, more problematic than ironic, unless you have some convenient way of causing the right amount of warming, but with a simple off-switch for when the sunspots come back.

Or unless you don't actually care about the longer term.

That's certainly a position that's possible to try to defend (*do* we actually owe anything to future people?), though it does seem that most people who really don't care what happens after they die prefer to hide behind synthetic skepticism rather than just manning up and admitting selfishness.

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Re: @AC

>No, more problematic than ironic, unless you have some convenient way of causing the right amount of warming, but with a simple off-switch for when the sunspots come back.

The ramifications for catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) alarmists of a cooling world are major.

Their pet CAGW theory relies on solar influence being minor and +ve feedbacks being major. Or in other words their theory (and the IPCCs) is that a maunder minimum type event would only decrease the amount of warming, not stop it.

Should a maunder minimum type event result in temperatures decreasing then it means that the impact of solar changes is greater than the impact of CO2 changes and this would overturn pretty much all of the alarmists theories. It would also mean the +ve feedbacks from CO2 are small (or even -ve) and any possible increase in temperature from a doubling of CO2 would not cause a catastrophe.

Instantly invalidated by a cooling world as a result of lower solar activity would be:

1. All computer models that assume minor solar influence (all of the ones the IPCC rely on)

2. All computer models that assume large +ve feedbacks (nearly all the IPCC models)

3. From 1 and 2 all scenarios with accelerating sea level rises.

Without 1,2 and 3 CAGW is dead and buried.

So in answer to your comment, there is no need for an off switch when solar activity ramps back up because, under the scenario presented, there would be nothing to switch off.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

>>"Their pet CAGW theory relies on solar influence being minor "

Does it really?

Surely, what they basically rely on is the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and the apparent fact that CO2 levels are being significantly raised by human activity.

It's fairly widely accepted that CO2 is a relatively minor factor in overall temperature, but that the other factors are relatively static, and it is argued that in normal solar conditions, CO2 above a certain level is likely to lead to results that we might not like.

Surely, in the limit that's pretty much accepted by everyone (few people would argue that a 100-fold rise in CO2 would be harmless), the question being what level of CO2 brings what kind of risk.

Unfortunately, there does seem to be a popular strand of unscientific argument that if CO2 effects are smaller than some other contributor, that means that it's safe to pretend that they don't exist at all - the desire among some people is not to understand the climate but to find an excuse to ignore the whole issue, just as some extreme environmentalists don't want to understand climate either but just want an excuse to argue that everyone should go 'back to nature'.

Even if the current solar situation had been predictable a decade or two ago, *and* we knew how long it was going to be before normal activity was resumed, it'd still make sense to ask what effect current human activity might have on a whole range of timescales.

Maybe it *would* be good for climate stability for the next few decades if we did burn shitloads more fossil fuels than we're currently doing, but even if that was the case, it'd be pretty stupid to ignore what longer-term effects there might be unless we were realistically confident we could engineer the problem away with ease when the time came.

>>"Should a maunder minimum type event result in temperatures decreasing then it means that the impact of solar changes is greater than the impact of CO2 changes and this would overturn pretty much all of the alarmists theories. It would also mean the +ve feedbacks from CO2 are small (or even -ve) and any possible increase in temperature from a doubling of CO2 would not cause a catastrophe."

That seems a bit of a shaky argument.

It seems to be like saying that if there was a room with some combination of thermal losses and heat sources, and that turning down a particular heater more than counteracted a certain claimed upgrade in the insulation, that would prove that even if the heater was turned back to normal, the room could never get too hot even if it was thought that the insulation would improve in efficiency over time.

The extent to which the room cools when the heater is turned down is interesting, but doesn't prove that the insulation doesn't exist as claimed unless the claim actually was that the insulation was so thick that it could cope with the reduction in input.

Who *has* actually claimed that current CO2 levels would prevent cooling with a significant decline in solar output?

When it comes to positive feedback mechanisms, aren't many of them postulated to occur at larger CO2 concentrations/higher temperatures than current ones, which means that looking at what happens in the near future doesn't do much to prove that such mechanisms wouldn't work?

If someone was saying that if the arctic gets to X degrees there'd be a huge methane release, that isn't proved wrong by nothing happening if/when temperatures decrease - it's only proved wrong if things warm up and still nothing happens.

>>"So in answer to your comment, there is no need for an off switch when solar activity ramps back up because, under the scenario presented, there would be nothing to switch off."

Only for people who believe bogus arguments such as "If solar output drops and current CO2 levels aren't enough to prevent significant cooling, that *proves* that even future higher CO2 levels can't cause undesirable warming when solar output is more normal."

Such arguments simply aren't science, they're sophistry.

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Coat

"This could overturn decades of received wisdom on such things as CO2 emissions"

What a ridiculous statement. Nothing changes of the physics of greenhouse gases just because the Sun is weaker.

But if we indeed get into a "mini Ice Age" again and ideas like this flourish (they will, people being stupid), it will be interesting to see the consequences when the Sun's activity goes back up and all that nice extra carbon is in the atmosphere. Fortunately, if it's as long as the previous 70 year one I won't be alive by then, so who cares, right?

I might need a thicker coat.

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re: Nothing changes of the physics of greenhouse gases

Well, it does give us 70 years to work out what the Physics of greenhouse gases actually are.

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Anonymous Coward

The physics isn't in dispute

The majority of the people who get called a denier don't dispute that:

1. CO2 is a greenhouse gas

2. All things being equal, adding CO2 will increase temperature.

The dispute lies in the "All things being equal" and the amount of temperature change.

Those who believe in a catastrophic warming think that there are strong positive feedbacks that will amplify any temperature change to anywhere from 1.5C to 5C (or even more) for every doubling of CO2.

There are others who believe that doubling CO2 will result in a temperature change of 0.7C which is what the physics indicates would happen without any feedbacks.

There are still other who believe that earths climate is inherently stable and negative feedbacks will counteract the CO2 and reduce any warming.

And then there are those who either don’t believe CO2 has any effect or believe that any effect will be completely overwhelmed by natural variations in climate.

Unfortunately, it is the catastrophic global warming crowd who get the press and who accuse anybody in the other three groups of being a "denier" and/or being "funded by Big Oil". This is despite the fact that there is no evidence, other than the output of computer models, to support the assertion of strong positive feedbacks.

It is also a sad fact of life that screaming "catastrophe" is more likely to get you funding and published than saying "no problem here, move along". This is not just a problem in climate research, but in all research. Just think back over how many times you have heard of one imminent catastrophe or another only for it never to materialise.

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Devil

Absolutely correct. Scientists aren't really helping any cause other than their own.

"It is also a sad fact of life that screaming "catastrophe" is more likely to get you funding and published than saying "no problem here, move along". This is not just a problem in climate research, but in all research. Just think back over how many times you have heard of one imminent catastrophe or another only for it never to materialise."

Absolutely correct.

Take the Big-C for example. If say we'd seen an actual 0.1% 'improvement' prognosis for every one of those new or proposed cancer treatment, or cures, or proposed cures etc. that I've actually heard of in the media or read about in science journals such as 'Science', 'Nature' etc. since I first became aware of the dreaded disease in the 1950s, then Cancer would have been eliminated years ago.

Fact one is that most of these claims are bunkum, and fact two the population at large has awoken to them--if you can't believe claims about fusion, or cold fusion, or cancer, or any other number of similar bullshit claims then why should one believe claims about climate change--even if they're true?

More often than not, the fact is that someone who is on the 'funding circuit' makes outrageous claims about a cure then absolutely nothing comes of it. And scientists don't seem the slightest bit worried about getting funding by crying 'Fire' or 'Wolf' as clearly it often works. The trouble is that with an increasingly interconnected population, increasing numbers of people are becoming aware of this deception.

Thus, it's little wonder that climate scientists, Jones et al, have been targeted as liars and so on. For not only have they been crying "Wolf" for far too long but also their extraordinary claims--whether correct or otherwise--require extraordinary proofs but they've none except a few trends and possibly inaccurate models. Exemplary proof they've none.

The best they can do is some inconclusive modelling and rough measurements which may well be correct but it's not enough to help very much, as science has had a spectacular fall from grace from about 1960 because of the disingenuous behaviour of many scientists.

Even if science could deliver, it's credibility is shot. Trouble is, none of these scientists has sufficient altruism for him to enter politics or such where he could make a difference. Right, scientist have locked themselves away from realpolitik and there's stuff-all indication that a sufficient number of them will enter the real world to make any real difference anytime soon.

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Unhappy

Re: The physics isn't in dispute

I think you missed out a significant group (possibly even the majority) who simply don't believe ANYTHING they read in the media, believing that it's all propaganda from someone or other. I notice this particularly because I live in a post-communist country. Even 22 years after the 1989 evolution to democracy in Hungary, hardly anybody believes anything that politicians or the newspapers say. Belief in conspiracy theories is rife - even the most ludicrous ones. The principle seems to be that anything is possible, except what the newspapers say, so if all the newspapers agree that global warming is happening, then it certainly isn't.

I'm beginning to think they might be right.

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Facepalm

>"why should one believe claims [ ... ] even if they're true?"

Because they're true. Duh.

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Anonymous Coward

'screaming "catastrophe" is more likely to get you funding'

... submitted a lot of funding applications, eh? Do let us know your hit/miss rate, correlated with title.

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