Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Today's Catch: Once Bitten, Twice Shy

In this space in August of 2008 it was suggested that the Sun is most likely the cause of any global warming the earth might be experiencing. This theory was in stark contrast to the widely publicized (and generously funded) theory that the conversion of petroleum into carbon dioxide was to blame. As of this summer, the former scenario has become the more credible of the two, with the revelation by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland of an inverse correlation between periodic changes in sunspot activity levels and quantities of cosmic rays entering Earth’s atmosphere that trigger surface-cooling cloud formations.

In 1996, two Danish scientists, Henrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen, theorized that it is changes in the Sun’s magnetic field, and not the emission of greenhouse gases, that has led to recent rises in global temperatures. In 1998 their theory began to be put to the test at the CERN Large Hadron Collider, deep inside a mountain on the Swiss border. Over the past 12 years, the CERN team, led by particle physicist Jasper Kirkby, has been experimenting with a custom-built chamber filled with air and chemicals, including water vapor, sulphur dioxide, ozone and ammonia, and bombarding the chamber with protons. The preliminary results, released in late August, seem to show that the cosmic rays have a much larger effect on climate than has been alleged by adherents of the manmade global warming theory.

Professor Svensmark notes that there is much more work to be done, but the fact that an actual controlled physics experiment calls into question a computer-generated theory that has been considered by many to be “settled” might be a powerful tool in the fight to remove science from politics, or vice versa.

Speaking of politics and science, as the global warming science becomes more unsettled, a new crisis is gaining ground among the environmental lobby: ocean acidification. As manmade global warming was “proven” by data showing that the earth had warmed, so manmade ocean acidification promises to suck more grant money into the vortex of science-for-hire.

The fact that the oceans are becoming more acidic seems to be a generally accepted premise, and therefore warrants concern and study. But, rather than encouraging public support for further scientific research, the use of a soon-to-be discredited theory (that man is to blame for changes in climate) to explain the oceanic rise in acid will likely be met with skepticism.

An upcoming event in Seattle on ocean acidification, sponsored by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Washington Sea Grant and the Sustainable Path Foundation, will promote the manmade acidification theory with speakers from NOAA and the federal government. One of the speakers claims, “The same CO2 that’s heating the planet is causing ocean acidification... This is not abstract theory; this is the consequence of fundamental principles of chemistry and physics. “

The proponents of manmade acidification already see it as “settled” science. We “deniers” will be ridiculed and vilified for our calls to consider other causes, and eventually someone will conduct a groundbreaking study, like that of Professors Kirkby et al, suggesting that maybe man isn’t to blame after all. If the ocean is indeed becoming more acid, we shouldn’t readily accept the first explanation and spend 12 years heading down the wrong path, but rather keep an open mind and use science to find the cause, and maybe a solution.

Chris Philips

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