Friday, March 23, 2007

NASA says solar activity even greater than previously thought. AGW alarmist smears opponents as drunk.

The anthropogenic global warming side of the debate, as I see it, keeps getting bad news. Basically the science comes down to what is the cause for climate trends, particularly over the last 100 years. But in reality the discussion also involves how climate has changed throughout history.

The CO2 theorists argue that the prime cause of climate change is CO2 in the atmosphere, especially that which man releases through day to day activity. The vast majority, though not all, of these individuals then call for various forms of government control, some for global governance, to restrict, regulate and criminalize lots of human activities. Some have semi-market solutions to offer most advocate raw coercion.

The alternative theory is that climate change is primarily driven by natural factors outside of any significant influence by humans. Climate has always changed and will always change and we are only scratching the surface in our understanding of how it happens.

One good thing that has come out of the crusade of the alarmists is that more attention has been paid to the science of climate. Of course that may have diverted attention and resources away from more pressing concerns. We only know about what has happened not what didn’t happen because of this campaign. That some good has happened doesn’t mean greater good wasn’t prevented.

One of the good things, I think, is that we are starting to understand the role of solar activity in climate change. There has always been a theory that such activity impacted climate but many details were missing. There is the obvious issue of warming from the rays of the sun. But there are less obvious forms of influence as well. And not only does our star (the sun) influence climate change but so does the cosmic rays emitted by other stars millions of miles away. But obviously the close proximity of our sun is going to be a major factor.

Consider something NASA said just two days ago. Previously it was theorized that the sun had an extremely turbulent magnetic field. New technologies allowed NASA to “see them clearly for the first time.” Reuters reports: “They saw twisting plumes of gas rising from the Sun’s corona and reaction with the star’s magnetic field, a process that releases energy and may power solar storms and coronal mass ejections, which in turn affect the Earth.” They say “the sun’s magnetic field is much more turbulent and dynamic than previously known.” It should be noted that a more turbulent sun is also one that emits far more energy than was previously thought.

Scientists are excited about this saying this will “open a new era of study of some of the sun’s processes that affect Earth” and “It’s going to put us in a whole new realm of understanding.”

If there is more solar energy being emitted than previously thought to be the case then this new fact means that the impact of solar activity on warming trends is larger than was previously thought. How much so is open to debate. Climate change computer models could only use older knowledge about how the sun was behaving and need to be adjusted, again, to reflect the new knowledge. If solar activity is greater than previously known then solar influence is greater than was previously known. And if solar influence is increased then the role man plays in global warming is decreased.

Personally I suspect that the solar theory of global warming will ultimately win the scientific debate. But only time will tell. Of course that has nothing to do with the political debate. Politics and reality are very, very often disconnected.

Meanwhile a word from Al Gore: “Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentation on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it that we are going to solve this crisis.” Now if a “skeptic” of AGW had said that we need to intentionally “under-represent” the facts the alarmists would be all over him like white on rice.

One thing I didn’t report on, and was hoping to hold off until I had a full report, was the debate between skeptics and alarmists in New York City. The audience was generally well-off New York intellectuals willing to pay a high fee to attend. About 60% said global warming was a crisis before the debate and about a third said it wasn’t. By the end of the debate a poll of the audience showed a massive switch with a plurality saying it was not a crisis, in the sense of a man-made crisis.

One participant was Gavin Schmidt, a major alarmist activist who runs RealClimate, an internet shrine for the faithful. He was not happy that the audience shifted so significantly and has decided that debates are not worthwhile at all. I had hoped to report on the actual debate. I have read a transcript of it and was surprised to see that when the alarmists were pointed to scientific theory on solar activity the rebuttal was to call a scientist a drunk! Apparently that didn’t win over the audience.

Schmidt was perturbed that Michael Crichton was on the other side and attributed much of the shift due, not to arguments, but to the celebrity status of Crichton. Hmm, is that why they use so many Hollywood celebrities to push their theory in public? Is this projection? Schmidt knows the debate will be aired on radio at some point soon and dismisses the “live audience” as “a rather select bunch, and so maybe this will go over differently on the radio. There it might not matter that Crichton is so tall...” (That is the actual end of his comment, I didn't delete from that point on as it would appear.)

I’m not sure the radio presentation will help him. I suspect attacking a scientist as being “drunk” for saying solar activity is important is not exactly a winning argument. Of course Schmidt leaves this attack out of his account of the debate. I can see why since it was Schmidt who made the smear. Schmidt had said that cosmic rays couldn’t possibly have an impact on climate. Philip Stott responded: “The most famous astrophysicist working on it says that it has.” Schmidt’s rebuttal was to say: “Uh, he is drunk.” Stott rightly noted that was a “serious accusation” against a prominent scientist and Schmidt replied: “I’d like to meet the person...”

At this point Stott mentioned some scientists working on this issue since none had been mentioned by name to this point. Schmidt didn’t even know who it was that he was accusing of being a drunk. When Stott mentions them Schmidt doesn’t reply but again attacks: “Now it looks like we’re having a scientific argument, but, this is completely bogus. You [the audience] don’t know that it’s bogus, but I know that it’s bogus, he [Stott] knows it’s bogus. [Thus implying Stott is intentionally dishonest.] You’re [the audience] being led astray.”

Even the moderator picked up that Schmidt was making an attack, not on the science of his opponents, but on their honesty. He asked if Schmidt believed his opponents were sincere. He replied: “I think --I--no, I, I do think they’re sincere.” So he says first they aren’t. they says they aren’t again, then says they are. The moderator replied: “You as much as said it.” Schmidt again gave a incoherent answer: “I don’t think that they are completely... doing this on a level playing field that the people here will understand. And there are....”

At this point some in the audience moaned rather loudly. After insulting his opponents Schmidt insulted the intelligence of the audience. The moderator asked him to again explain. Schmidt did not explain and just said he has “no idea what their political or cultural agendas are, and to be frank I’m not interested.” Still no answer as to whether they are sincere, he only shifted the debate to imply a political agenda. Stott responded that he’s a Leftist. At this point the conversation turned to another topic and Schmidt never clarified if his accusation of dishonesty was what he really thought or not. Good to see he stuck to the science.

If Schmidt lost the audience it may be due more to his accusations, smears and sneers than to Crichton’s height.
To read the full debate go here. PDF file.

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