Unsettling Science: New research suggests mankind’s effects on climate have been vastly overblown

Commentary, Climate, Frontier Centre

Suppose an ossuary — an ancient burial box — containing the skeletal remains of Jesus of Nazareth was discovered. Its contents would prove a challenge to the central fact of Christianity, that Jesus was God made man who ascended to Heaven whole — bones and all — after his crucifixion.

That would be big news, right? The significance of it would be debated in religious circles around the world, as well as in newspapers and on 24/7 news channels. Or, it would be if the remains didn’t come under the control of some Christian organization whose leaders had a vested interest in suppressing reports about the discovery.

One way or the other, though, some faithful Christians would deny the find was real. Then when that position was no longer defensible, they would continue to insist the bones were immaterial.

Something similar may be happening in the climate change debate, whose basic premise — that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous climate change — has become religious dogma to many scientists, politicians, activists and fundraisers.

Last week, 63 scientists from CERN, the unimpeachable European Organization for Nuclear Research, published a paper in the journal Nature that would seem to prove that the sun, and not humans, is the main “driver” of climate on Earth.

In short, cloud cover is the most important determinant of global warming or cooling. Tiny changes in the percentage of the Earth shielded by clouds (or not) can cause a variation in global temperatures of several degrees, down or up. Cosmic rays are the main cause of cloud formation — the more rays from outer space reaching our planet’s atmosphere, the more clouds form and the cooler the surface becomes.

In turn, the amount of cosmic rays penetrating our atmosphere is determined by the sun’s activity. When our sun is particularly active, its magnetic field diverts cosmic rays away from our atmosphere. This reduces cloud formation, permits more solar rays to reach Earth and increases global temperatures.

By comparison, the CERN team found human CO2 emissions have little or no impact, or at the very least their impact as been greatly overestimated in the computer models that global-warming alarmists rely on to show dangerous future climate changes.

So why hasn’t this been headline news around the world? After all, global warming and what to do about it has been perhaps the biggest public policy issue of the past decade, with the possible exception of the worldwide financial crisis. (Both revolve around whether more government intervention and spending is the best way to solve large-scale problems.)

In part, the lack of attention is due to the lead author’s inherent caution. Like all good scientists, Jasper Kirkby, the British experimental particle physicist who heads up CERN’s CLOUD project, is reluctant to run ahead of his data. At present, he is only prepared to assert that the CLOUD results are “a very important first step” to demonstrating the sun’s impact on global climate.

But even that assertion is a major challenge to the climate orthodoxy promoted by the UN’s IPCC and much of the eco-science establishment. For years, warming alarmists in the environmental science community pressured CERN not to fund the CLOUD experiment, which recreated the Earth’s atmosphere in a controlled chamber, then tested various theories about the sources of clouds.

Beyond Kirkby’s modesty and prudence, CERN director general Rolf-Dieter Heuer ordered the scientists who worked on the project to “present the results clearly, but not to interpret them.” Interpretation of the results — i.e. explaining how the experiment indicates that the sun and not mankind causes global warming — “would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate.” He instructed them in all public statements “to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.”

It’s hard to imagine, though, the CERN scientists being similarly gagged if their experiment had supported the politically correct belief that human activity is the main cause of climate change. Scientists whose work backs the alleged scientific consensus feel free to interpret their results all the time. They frequently claim their findings prove the need for urgent, expensive and intrusive government regulation of private decisions and actions. So why the muzzle on the CERN crew?

If nothing else, the CERN study demonstrates that claims that climate-change science is “settled” are premature.