In Ny Tid 34/2013 (of 23.08.) Per-Erik Lönnfors published a kolumn which was essentially about economy, in which, though, he also indicated some doubt whether really human activity were the main cause of the observed warming of the Earth’s climate. I know that there are others who also doubt, and one of them recommended a book to me which I then bought and read: “The Chilling Stars – A Cosmic View of Climate Change” by Henrik Svensmark & Nigel Calder. Of the two authors, Nigel Calder is a popularizer of science with decades of experience (who also has been writing in the New Scientist), while Svensmark is the researcher behind the book’s thesis.
The book’s idea is that the present mainstream discussion about climate change is ignoring an important factor, a factor which might be even clearly more important than greenhouse-gasses. The factor is this (according to the book): Supernovae are producing cosmic particles which also reach the solar system and its planets; the Sun’s magnetic activity protects the Earth from this bombardment in proportion to the strength of the Sun’s (changing) activity; of the particles which reach the Earth’s atmosphere those with a certain high energy reach the atmosphere’s lower levels, where they produce free electrons, which in turn catalyze the formation of clouds. These low clouds cool the Earth in two ways, namely (a) by reflecting the Sun’s incoming radiation, and (b) by being (in contrast to high clouds) themselves warm enough to radiate energy into space because of their own warmth.
Svensmark supports his idea with data from the geological record (where analysis of the isotopes in a layer allows conclusions as to both the intensity of the then cosmic radiation and the temperatures prevailing at the time) as well as experimental data (which are at the moment followed up by further research teams). For more details one should read the book. Anyway it seems that his idea is taken serious by a professor of Helsinki university whom I know to have a good international reputation. But the research is anyway not so far yet that it would be possible to predict how things (e.g. the Sun’s magnetic activity) are going to develop in even the nearer future.
Assumed Svensmark were right, what should be our practical/political conclusions? Okay, those who feel morally bad because their style of living is producing large amounts of greenhouse gasses may be happy about the chance to feel “rehabilitated”. This, though, does not change the facts that we still, for meanwhile more than a third of the year, consume resources which the Earth is not able to reproduce (i.e. we still should develop less wasteful habits), that the time of cheap oil is over anyway, that the methods by which further sources of hydrocarbons are “developed” (like fracking and the use of tar sands) are highly destructive for the environment, that the money payed to more conventional providers of oil is often used for very doubtful political purposes, that every year are dying larger numbers of miners in coal mines, and that carbon dioxide might, in addition to the effect of cosmic radiation, in fact still add to the warming of the globe. Altogether, we certainly should continue to develop and increasingly apply renewable sources of energy, and in general waste less.
If the scientific discussion should soon produce the result that, as to the warming of the globe, we are not really in such a hurry, one could then consider cutting the “green” policy a bit back in such sectors where it has meanwhile clearly misdeveloped. What I am thinking of are facts like those 40 % of the US maize harvest which go into the production of car fuel, or those more than 50 % of the agricultural area in my German home region which are meanwhile devoted to the growing of maize for (via a complicated process) the production of electricity (while the wild animals, birds and bees have somehow to live with the fact that a maize field is a desert for at least half of the year).
Anyway and altogether, it is quite possible to doubt the present mainstream discussion about the climate change and still be of the opinion that the “green” line of policy should be continued (and that even more energetically than up to now).