Sun May be Causing Global Warming—Seriously?

As we’ve been discussing in this series, there is a great gap between the Christian understanding of creational stewardship and the contemporary emphasis of environmentalism. This latter pseudo-religion finds its Fall of Adam in humanity’s role as a new Prometheus, bringing the fire of ecological destruction to Mother Earth. This focus has led many to zero in on man-made explanations for phenomena instead of more plausible natural causes. Nearly twelve years ago, Canada’s National Post reported, “The polar ice cap is shrinking, laying bare deep gullies in the landscape and the climate is the warmest it has been in decades or perhaps centuries.” Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Well it is if you’re a Martian! According to NASA, data collected from the Mars Odyssey mission revealed that Mars was also experiencing “global warming.” NASA scientist William Feldman said, “In some low-latitude areas, the ice has already dissipated.” Following a recent analysis of the first twelve months of data collected from Mars, scientists are accumulating evidence that climatic changes similar to Earth’s are also occurring on the only other planet in the solar system where the climate is now being studied. Now, the obvious question is: “How can Mars experience climate change if climate change is caused by an increase in carbon dioxide produced by human activity?” According to the proponents of “man-made” global warming, carbon dioxide emissions are the culprit in climate change. So, what is the role of carbon dioxide, if any, and are there other, more plausible explanations for the half-degree centigrade temperature increase that is believed to have occurred over the last century? Astrophysicist Nir Shariv, one of Israel’s top scientists, was once a proponent of the theory that man-made carbon emissions are driving climate change. In an interview with Lawrence Solomon, a columnist for the National Post, Dr. Shariv “described the logic that led him—and most everyone else—to conclude that SUVs, coal plants, and other things man-made cause global warming.” Dr. Shariv points out that “scientists for decades have postulated that increases in carbon dioxide and other gases could lead to a greenhouse effect.” Then, as if on cue, “the temperature rose over the course of the 20th century while greenhouse gases proliferated due to human activities” and since “no other mechanism explains the warming … greenhouses gases necessarily became the cause.” Recently however, he has recanted saying: “Like many others, I was personally sure that CO2 is the bad culprit in the story of global warming. But after carefully digging into the evidence, I realized that things are far more complicated than the story sold to us by many climate scientists or the stories regurgitated by the media.” As Dr. Shariv began to dig into the issue he was surprised to discover “there is no concrete evidence—only speculation—that man-made greenhouse gases cause global warming.” Solomon points out, “Even research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the United Nations agency that heads the worldwide effort to combat climate change—is bereft of anything inspiring confidence. In fact, according to the IPCC’s own findings, ‘man’s role is so uncertain that there is a strong possibility that we have been cooling, not warming, the earth. Unfortunately, our tools are too crude to reveal what man’s effect has been in the past, let alone predict how much warming or cooling we might cause in the future.’” In the wake of mounting scientific evidence, Dr. Shariv and many others now believe that solar activity offers a much more plausible explanation for global warming than man-made carbon emissions, particularly because of the evidence that has been accumulating over the past decade of the strong relationship that cosmic-ray flux has on our atmosphere. Scientists have learned that the sun’s magnetic field deflects some of the cosmic rays that penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere, and in so doing it also limits the immense amounts of ions and free electrons that the cosmic rays produce. But something changed in the 20th century: The sun’s magnetic field more than doubled in strength, deflecting an extraordinary number of rays. A magnetically active sun boosts the number of sunspots, indicating that vast amounts of energy are being released from deep within. Typically, sunspots flare up and settle down in cycles of about 11 years. “In the last 50 years, we haven’t been living in typical times: If you look back into the sun’s past, you find that we live in a period of abnormally high solar activity,” according to Dr. Nigel Weiss, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. Conversely, in the 17th century, sunspots almost completely disappeared for 70 years during what was the coldest interval of the “Little Ice Age,” when New York Harbor froze, allowing residents to walk from Manhattan to Staten Island. It is believed that the diminution of cosmic rays limited the formation of clouds, making the earth slightly warmer in the nineties and early 21st century. Low-altitude clouds are particularly significant because they especially shield the Earth from the sun to keep us cool. Low cloud cover can vary by 2% in five years, affecting the earth’s surface by as much as 1.2 watts per square meter during that same period. “That figure can be compared with about 1.4 watts per square meter estimated by the IPCC for the greenhouse effect of all the increase in carbon dioxide in the air since the Industrial Revolution,” according to Henrik Svensmark, director of the Centre for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish Space Research Institute. Up until the 21st century the relationship between cosmic rays and cloud formation was merely a theory. That is until Dr. Svensmark and his team undertook an elaborate laboratory experiment in a reaction chamber the size of a small room. Reporting on these events Lawrence Solomon writes: The team duplicated the chemistry of the lower atmosphere by injecting the gases found there in the same proportions, and adding ultraviolet rays to mimic the actions of the sun. What they found left them agape: A vast number of floating microscopic droplets soon filled the reaction chamber. These were ultra-small clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules—the building blocks for cloud condensation nuclei—that had been catalyzed by the electrons released by cosmic rays. “We were amazed by the speed and efficiency with which the electrons do their work,” Dr. Svensmark remarked. For the first time ever, researchers had experimentally identified a causal mechanism by which cosmic rays can facilitate the production of clouds in earth’s atmosphere. “This is a completely new result within climate science.” (National Post, Feb 2, 2007) Is it so ridiculous to suggest that the largest source of heat energy in the entire solar system may have contributed to the late 20th century warming trend? It is certainly not the politically correct view because without a man-made cause there is no “moral” battle to fight and secular man is once again left without any meaningful moral purpose. In the final installment I will attempt to explain why there is such dogged commitment to the idea that climate change is man-made and why it matters to the Church. [Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a six-part series. Click on the links below to read the other articles.] Part One: Creation and the Human Equation Part Two: The Population Bomb & Other Fairy Tales Part Three: Malthusian Dreams Part Four: Cooking the Science  
Michael Craven serves as the Director of the Colson Fellows Program at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.


S. Michael Craven


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