Solar Prominence

The global warming jigsaw: The Sun

Most leading climate experts don’t agree with Henrik Svensmark, the 49-year-old director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen. In fact, he has taken a lot of blows for proposing that solar activity and cosmic rays are instrumental in determining the warming (and cooling) of Earth. His studies show that cosmic rays trigger cloud formation, suggesting that a high level of solar activity—which suppresses the flow of cosmic rays striking the atmosphere—could result in fewer clouds and a warmer planet.

This, Svensmark contends, could account for most of the warming during the last century. Does this mean that carbon dioxide is less important than we’ve been led to believe? Yes, he says, but how much less is impossible to know because climate models are so limited.

Here are some excerpts:

If cosmic radiation is, in fact, the principal cause of global warming, is that good or bad news for human beings?

That’s a good question because you would have to say that we cannot predict the sun. And, of course, that would mean that we couldn’t do anything about it.

But if humans, through carbon dioxide emissions, are affecting climate less than we think, would that mean we may have more time to reduce the harmful effects?

Yes, that could, of course, be a consequence. But I don’t know how to get to such a conclusion because right now everything is set up that CO2 is a major disaster in society.

Do you agree that carbon dioxide is having at least some impact on Earth’s current warming?

Yes, but you have to give the sun a role. If you include the sun in the right way, the effect of CO2 must be smaller. The question is, how much smaller? All we know about the effect of CO2 is really based on climate models that predict how climate should be in 50 to 100 years, and these climate models cannot actually model clouds at all, so they are really poor. When you look at them, the models are off by many hundreds percent. It’s a well-known fact that clouds are the major uncertainty in any climate model. So the tools that we are using to make these predictions are not actually very good.

I think that this adds more perspective to the rather blinkered messages we are getting from the mass media – i.e. that carbon emissions are solely to blame for the problem.

It [global warming] is a huge jigsaw of interlocking, interrelated elements which all combine to give the nett effect. Some pieces in the jigsaw – for example, carbon dioxide – act as catalysts in the larger ecosystem, but should not be hailed as exclusive causes.

We should look at all the elements and decide which ones we can do something about – carbon emissions are an obvious choice, but are there other factors which we might be missing because of the spin we are being given on a daily basis?

I’m sure industry and research teams worldwide are looking into alternatives, but it would be nice to hear more about it in the mainstream. For now, check out World Changing for a broader picture of things.