"It's the sun, stupid"

CLOUD Rains on Climate Theory

By —— Bio and Archives--September 3, 2011

Global Warming-Energy-Environment | Comments | Print Friendly | Subscribe | Email Us

“It’s the sun, stupid.” This was the excited conclusion many readers drew from a recent much-read blogpost of mine about the latest results from the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. The story concerned a major experiment called CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets) and seemed to confirm everything that the world’s growing band of “skeptics” would dearly love to hear: that the sun, not man-made CO2 is by far the most important factor in “Climate Change.”


Actually, though, the story’s more complicated than that. And, in many ways, more interesting. Yes, the experiment did lend encouraging credence to the theory by the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark that solar radiation may play a significant role in seeding the clouds which warm (and cool) the planet. But what it didn’t do was prove anything except that this is a promising area and that more research needs to be done.

What it did do very much to confirm, though, was the extreme establishment bias which has corrupted and debased the whole debate about Anthropogenic Global Warming. The real story lay, not in the experiment’s tentative findings, but in the insistence by CERN’s own Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer, that it wasn’t a story.

Before CERN grudgingly dribbled out the news in a press release, Heuer issued an edict to CERN’s scientists, telling them they should only describe the results but not interpret them because “that would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.”

To the outsider, this might sound like no more than a responsible scientific administrator being properly cautious. But as the feisty Czech physicist Lubos Motl noted on his blog this rule only seems to apply to experiments which contradict the supposed “consensus” scientific view on AGW.

As Motl noted:

One could perhaps understand if all scientists were similarly gagged and prevented from interpreting the results of their research in ways that could be relevant for policymaking. However, the main problem is that many people who are trying to work on very different phenomena in the climate are not prevented from interpreting—and indeed, over-interpreting and misinterpreting—their results that are often less serious, less reliable, and less rigorous, perhaps by orders of magnitude, than the observations by the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Moreover, this sentence by Heuer:

One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters, is really a proof of his prejudice. Whether the cosmic radiation is just one player or the only relevant player or an important player or an unimportant player is something that this very research has been supposed to determine or help to determine. An official doesn’t have the moral right to predetermine in advance what “one has to make clear” about these a priori unknown scientific results.

These are good points, well made. They confirm something I saw for myself a few months ago, nearly a mile below the ground at Boulby, one of Britain’s deepest mines. I’d gone to report on an experiment into Dark Matter (the lab is deep underground so as to avoid the presence of Cosmic Rays) and noticed, in a separate corner of the lab, a large lead-lined box.

This box, I learned, was one of the prototypes for Svensmark’s Cosmic Ray experiment. Svensmark’s hypothesis is outlined by physicist (and co-author of their book on the subject, Chilling Stars: A Cosmic View of Climate Change) Nigel Calder. In a nutshell, Svensmark believes that much of the 20th Century’s global warming can be explained by the reduction in cosmic rays due to livelier solar activity, resulting in less low cloud cover and warmer surface.

Naturally this theory is anathema to the IPCC “consensus” view that the main cause is anthropogenic CO2. And, because the “consensus” view is where most of the government funding lies, dissenting scientists are reluctant to speak out, lest they experience the science equivalent of excommunication. As was revealed in the Climategate emails, this is a real possibility: scientists who don’t toe the AGW line can be denied publication, be shut out of the peer review process and even lose their funding. I noticed the same - not unreasonable - paranoia at Boulby. My scientist guide was extremely reluctant to discuss the Svensmark experiment because, he said, it’s such a “political hot potato.”

Indeed, so politically incorrect was the CERN CLOUD experiment that it very nearly never happened. According to Lawrence Solomon, the AGW-believing establishment pressured Western governments to have the experiment suspended. Only after a decade’s negotiation with CERN’s bureaucracy was the project even allowed to proceed.

Calder himself believes the latest results of the experiment, headed by Jasper Kirkby of CERN and 62 co-authors from 17 institutes across Europe and the United States, are highly significant. He quotes this key paragraph in the CLOUD paper:

“Ion-induced nucleation [cosmic ray action] will manifest itself as a steady production of new particles [molecular clusters] that is difficult to isolate in atmospheric observations because of other sources of variability but is nevertheless taking place and could be quite large when averaged globally over the troposphere [the lower atmosphere].”

This, he believes, is devastating stuff - “so transparently favourable to what the Danes have said all along that I’m surprised the warmists’ house magazine Nature is able to publish it.”

Others such as David Whitehouse, of the non-partisan UK think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, are more cautious. And still others, such as that bastion of Warmist correctness the BBC, seem to believe that the story is of no significance whatsoever.

Really, though, to dwell on these nuances of interpretation is to miss the much bigger picture. 1. There is now increasingly persuasive evidence that the IPCC’s climate models are sorely inadequate to the task of predicting future climate; far too emphasis is placed on CO2, while cosmic rays are ignored. 2. The gatekeepers of the “consensus” - establishment scientists and their amen corner in the MSM - would prefer you not to know this. 3. As I argue in my book Watermelons: The Green Movement’s True Colors, this is - and never has been - a debate which is ever going to be resolved through experiments like CLOUD at CERN, no matter how compelling their results. That’s because essentially AGW alarmism has become a multi-trillion dollar international activity in which bent scientists, rent-seeking businessmen, huckster politicians and radical leftist activists have found common cause to re-engineer society. The last thing they want now is for their cosy arrangement to be disturbed by inconvenient truths like CLOUD.


Only YOU can save CFP from Social Media Suppression. Tweet, Post, Forward, Subscribe or Bookmark us

James Delingpole -- Bio and Archives | Comments

James Delingpole, jamesdelingpole.com,  is a writer, journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything. He is the author of numerous fantastically entertaining books.

Commenting Policy

Please adhere to our commenting policy to avoid being banned. As a privately owned website, we reserve the right to remove any comment and ban any user at any time.

Comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence and death, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal or abusive attacks on other users may be removed and result in a ban.
-- Follow these instructions on registering: