Friday, March 17, 2006

A warming story

The Ottawa Citizen manages a very nice discussion of the theories of a distinguished Canadian scientist about Global Warming.

It is not hysterical and it presents the information in a mostly balanced way. Kudos.
A prominent University of Ottawa science professor says what we know about global warming is wrong -- that stars, not greenhouse gases, are changing Earth's climate.

Jan Veizer says high-energy rays from distant parts of space are smashing into our atmosphere in ways that make our planet go through warm and cool cycles.

...he has published his theory in Geoscience Canada, the journal of the Geological Association of Canada. The article is called "Celestial Climate Driver: A Perspective from Four Billion Years of the Carbon Cycle."

In his paper, Mr. Veizer concludes: "Empirical observations on all time scales point to celestial phenomena as the principal driver of climate, with greenhouse gases acting only as potential amplifiers."

...The Royal Society of Canada called him "one of the most creative, innovative and productive geoscientists of our times," and added: "He has generated entirely new concepts that have proven key in our understanding the geochemical history of Earth."

He was the director of the Earth System Evolution Program of the Canadian Institute of Advanced Research. He held a special research chair at the University of Ottawa.

He won the 1992 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, worth $2.2 million, and representing the German government's highest prize for research in any field. The judges said he "has in front of his eyes the overall picture of the Earth during its entire 4.5 billion years of evolution," and he is "one of the most creative ... geologists of his time."

...Mr. Veizer felt uncomfortable with the idea that high levels of carbon dioxide alone are causing hot spells. For one thing, he says, Earth would have needed vastly more carbon dioxide than today to change temperatures so much. For another, his reading of the graphs shows that some rises in carbon dioxide came after increases in temperature, not before. And in one case at least, we appear to have had very high carbon dioxide at a cold time -- an "icehouse," not greenhouse.

He wondered: What if something else makes the temperature go up and down?

And he was able to do the research because of that $2.2 million grant from Germany. ;)
The $2.2-million German prize ended up financing his research. The professor says he would never have found financial support any other way; the prize gave him "absolute freedom."

Read the whole article.

H/T Strong World

1 comment:

Tokyo Tom said...

Thanks for this; I've read not only the "nice article" from The Ottawa Citizen that you've quoted, but also Veizer's paper ( and available commentary on it. Unfortunately, the Ottawa Citizen is about a year late – as Veizer’s paper was published in May 2005 - so the portion of Veizer’s paper claiming that changes in cosmic ray flux (CRF) are responsible for present climate change (as opposed to natural changes over much longer periods) has already been rather thoroughly shredded by climate change scientists.

Veizer’s paper is his effort to bring up to date, and to claim more modern relevancy for, his theory about CRF and a relatively weak role of CO2, which he first published three years ago: and which received some strong criticism: (long-range cycles) and (recent climate change).

Usefully for climate change skeptics, the article also quotes noted anti-climate change “expert” Ross McKitrick (an economist at the University of Guelph), who says that Veizer has “taken a lot of unfair criticism for publications that were perfectly reasonable and well researched and well done.” On this point, reviewers of Veizer’s latest article have also pointed out a number of errors that were not caught because the article was not peered reviewed by climatologists, but by experts on meteors and volcanoes! One wonders what Geoscience Canada, had in mind in running Veizer’s article without more substantive review, but a look at their website makes clear that theirs is not a formal scientific journal, but targets “articles in the geological sciences written in a style to interest and inform the non-specialist reader with a professional interest.”

The Ottawa Citizen strives for some balance by noting that “The majority of climate scientists still firmly believe that greenhouse gases are to blame. It's fine to use natural events to explain climates of the distant past, says Gordon McBean of the University of Western Ontario, but it falls apart in explaining the recent warming -- since 1970 or so. ‘If you don't include the greenhouse gases, all these projections show that if anything we should have been cooling for the past few decades. But it's the greenhouse gas signal over the past 30 years that has made the difference.’" Of course McBean is absolutely correct on what the consensus view is, but what is puzzling is that The Ottawa Citizen fails to tell the readers who McBean is – he(i) was Chair of the international Scientific Committee for the World Climate Research Program of the UN agencies from 1988 to 1994, (ii) was a lead author for the First and Second Assessment Reports of the IPCC, (iii) was Deputy Minister of the Canadian Meteorological Service, (iv) is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, and (v) is lead author of the 1995 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment’s chapter on the climate system.

A close reading of Veizer should that he also believes that action is warranted against greenhouse gases. Given all of the scientific voices concluding that we have a real and serious problem relating to global climate change, this article by The Ottawa Citizen does it readers a disservice, and so do you. Those who fog on this issue are not “conservative”, but big-business libertarians who believe in giving a free-ride to energy producers and consumers, and passing the costs onto future generations. I would like to see true conservatives take charge of crafting responsible policy in this area, rather than leaving the moral high ground to enviros who don’t understand how an economy works. Climate change is not a problem that we can wish away.