This review of Vahrenholt and Luning's The Neglected Sun is a guest post by Thomas Cussans.
In June 1997, addressing the United Nations, Bill Clinton made a dramatic assertion. ‘The science is clear and compelling,’ he said. ‘We humans are changing the global climate.’
In fact, Clinton was behind the curve. Well before his claim, the belief in a ‘settled science’ that human CO2 emissions would produce an unprecedented and catastrophic rise in the Earth’s temperatures had become an unchallenged truth. Governments across the world, most obviously in the West, embraced it with a kind of masochistic delight. Green activists were similarly frantic in their assertions of impending disaster. Scenting cheap profits courtesy of immense government grants to produce ‘renewable’ energy, a series of multi-nationals made clear their determination to climb on board the global warming express. No less important, the West’s media took as read that this ‘consensus’ represented an obvious truth.
Towering over this improbable coming-together of vested interests was the United Nations in the shape of its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, established in 1988 as a supposedly disinterested body that would assemble the world’s leading climate experts to pronounce authoritatively on the impending, self-imposed crisis.
The message was unambiguous. The world was moving towards disaster.
At least until Climategate in 2009, those who dared to question the orthodoxy could be dismissed as cranks. If they were not in the pay of Big Oil, they were ‘anti-science’, even ‘anti-climate’. No less tellingly, they were derided as climate ‘deniers’, a term whose deliberate offensiveness made plain the political motives of those labelling them.
Yet at heart, however politicised it has become, the question of global warming is – and can only be – scientific. Is the world warming? And if so, why? More to the point, does it matter?
For at least the last five years, the orthodox view of global warming as a direct product of CO2 emissions has come under increasing challenge. Intially content to swat away its critics with a kind of high-handed snootiness as the work of precisely those deluded fossil-fuel funded ‘deniers’ we could all safely ignore, the response of the orthodox camp has become increasibly jittery. They have good reasons to be worried.
The authors of The Neglected Sun, Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning, present a compelling series of reasons to say that not only is the belief in human-induced CO2 warming over-stated but that it ignores by far the most obvious influence of the Earth’s climate: the Sun.
The core argument is simple. The Sun may be a minor star in an insignificant part of our galaxy but in human terms it generates a staggering quantity of energy. Every second, it produces 620 million metric tons of hydrogen. It has been doing this for something like four billion years. It is estimated that it will continue to do so for a further 5.4 billion years.
That said, it is subject to a series of cycles: short, medium and longer term. These have clearly played the key role in the Earth’s climate. In the mid term, the most obvious are a series of ice ages, played out over thousands of years, briefly interrupted by warmer periods. The last five of these ice ages each lasted 100,000 years, the intervening warm periods about 10,000 years. Over the last 8,000 years or so, there has a period of unusually benign solar activity. Perhaps co-incidentally, this has precisely coordinated with what, historically, has been called the birth of human civilisation: settled communities, writing, agriculture, the domestication of animals.
In the shorter term still, every subsequent advance in human society has coincided with warmer periods, every reverse with cooler periods. Fast forward again and we find that since about 1850 a further period of modest warming has occurred. The IPCC contends that this warming, in stark contrast to all earlier periods of warming, can only be the consequence of increased CO2 emissions.
Never less than politely, Vahrenholt and Lüning tear this simplistic argument into minute shreds. They reserve their major criticisms for the debasement of the science. The West can clearly cite the scientific method as among its most obvious triumphs. Yet this painstakingly-won advantage is now being sacrificed, they contend, in the interests of activists, egos, political necessity and headlines. In short, the science has been corrupted in the interests of political expediency.
We can take some comfort from this. Truth has a way of winning, however painfully. Patently, Vahrenholt and Lüning have laid out what at the very minimum must be a serious case for calling into question the IPPC orthodoxy. To ignore their arguments can only be an act of deliberate obfuscation or deliberate ignorance.
Buy it here.