Could a quiescent sun portend a new little ice age: a chilly era for humanity and agriculture?
Guest opinion by Paul Driessen
President Obama, Al Gore and other alarmists continue to prophesy manmade global warming crises, brought on by our “unsustainable” reliance on fossil fuels. Modelers like Mike Mann and Gavin Schmidt conjure up illusory crisis “scenarios” based on the assumption that carbon dioxide emissions now drive climate change. A trillion-dollar Climate Crisis industry self-servingly echoes their claims.
But what if these merchants of fear are wrong? What if the sun refuses to cooperate with the alarmists?
“The sun is almost completely blank,” meteorologist Paul Dorian notes. Virtually no sunspots darken the blinding yellow orb. “The main driver of all weather and climate … has gone quiet again during what is likely to be the weakest sunspot cycle in more than a century. Not since February 1906 has there been a solar cycle with fewer sunspots.”
“Going back to 1755, there have been only a few solar cycles that have had a lower number of sunspots during their maximum phase,” Dorian continues. This continued downward trend in solar sunspot cycles began over 20 years ago, when Earth stopped warming. If it continues for a couple more cycles, Earth could be entering another “grand minimum,” an extended period of low solar activity.
That would mean less incoming solar radiation, which could have a marked cooling effect – as happened during previous decades-long episodes of low solar activity. The “Maunder Minimum” lasted 70 years (1645-1715), the “Dalton Minimum” 40 years (1790-1830); they brought even colder global temperatures to the “Little Ice Age.”
Solar activity is in free fall, Reading University (UK) space physicist Mike Lockwood confirms, perhaps “faster than at any time in the last 9,300 years.” He raised the likelihood of another grand minimum to 25% (from 10% three years previously). However, he claims a new little ice age is unlikely.
“Human-induced global warming is already a more important force in global temperatures than even major solar cycles,” Professor Lockwood insists. That warmist mantra may keep him from getting excoriated for even mentioning solar influences. But it ignores Earth’s long history of climate change.
And what if Lockwood is wrong about human influences and the extent of a coming cold era? Habibullo Abdussamatov, director of Russia’s space research laboratory and its global warming research team, is convinced another little ice age is on its way. (See pages 18-21 of this report.) That would be LIA #19.
A couple degrees warmer, with more carbon dioxide in the air, would be good for humanity and planet. Crops, forests and grasslands would grow faster and better, longer growing seasons over larger areas of land would support more habitats, wildlife, agriculture and people – especially if everyone has access to ample, reliable, affordable energy, especially electricity, and modern farming technologies. Most people, including the elderly, can easily handle such warmth, especially if they have air conditioning.
But a couple degrees colder would bring serious adverse consequences for habitats, wildlife, agriculture and humanity. Though geologists say we are overdue for one, this does not mean another Pleistocene ice age – with glaciers obliterating forests and cities under mile-thick walls of ice across North America, Europe, Asia and beyond. Maybe Lockwood is right, and it won’t be a full-blown Little Ice Age déjà vu.
However, Antarctic sea ice just set a new April record. Ice conditions are back to normal in the Arctic. Winters have become longer, colder and snowier. With less meltwater, sea levels are barely rising.
Moreover, a 2-degree drop in average global temperatures would shrink growing seasons, cropland and wildlife habitats. Agriculture would be curtailed across Canada, northern Europe and Russia, putting greater pressure on remaining land to feed hungry families without turning more habitats into cropland. Governments might even have to stop mandating corn for ethanol and devote the land to food crops.
Our ability to feed Earth’s growing population would be seriously impaired, especially since the same factions that wail about fossil fuels, fracking and “dangerous manmade climate change” also despise the chemical fertilizers, insecticides, biotechnology and mechanized farming that would enable us to get far more food per acre under colder conditions, even if crops are starved for plant-fertilizing CO2.
Generally colder conditions can also bring more unpredictable storms and cold snaps during shortened growing seasons. That happened frequently during the last Little Ice Age (1350-1850), resulting in frequent crop failures and bouts of hunger, malnutrition, starvation and disease in much of Europe.
Worst of all, cold kills. Modern homes and buildings with affordable heat make it easy to survive even brutal winters in comfort. However, carbon taxes, restrictions on coal and natural gas, renewable energy mandates and other ill-conceived programs have sent electricity and home heating prices soaring.
When energy is rationed, expensive and unpredictable, businesses lay people off or close their doors. Forced to go on welfare, people’s health and well-being suffer. The elderly are especially susceptible. In Britain, many pensioners now ride buses or sit in libraries all day to stay warm, while others burn used books in stoves (they are cheaper than coal or wood). Thousands die of hypothermia, because they can no longer afford proper heat.
In Germany, Greece and other countries, rising energy costs have caused a surge in illegal tree cutting, as desperate families try to stay warm. Hungry, unemployed families are also poaching wildlife. Meanwhile, forests of wind turbines generate minimal expensive electricity but do slaughter millions of birds and bats every year, leaving crops to be eaten by hordes of insects, across Europe and the United States.
These realities portend what will likely happen on a far larger scale, if we do enter another prolonged cold era under anti-fossil fuel rules imposed in response to global warming hysteria. The specter of widespread turmoil, rising death tolls and climate refugees by the millions could become reality.
And still alarmists say, even if temperatures aren’t rising, we should force developed nations to curtail their energy use and living standards – and modernize developing countries in a “sustainable” manner. We should use the “climate crisis” to “move the world in a greener, more equitable direction.”
As though wind, solar and biofuel energy and widespread organic farming are sustainable, under any objective standard. As though government elites have a right to tell poor countries what level of development, what energy technologies, what farming methods they will be “permitted” to have – and what level of poverty, disease, malnutrition and early death they must continue to suffer.
Ending this insanity must begin with the climate scientists and modelers. They are taking our tax dollars and promoting constant scare stories. They owe it to us to be objective, transparent and willing to discuss and debate these issues with those who question human influences on climate change. They owe it to us to get the predictions right, so that we can be properly prepared, especially if the iceman cometh again.
That means basing their models on all the forces that determine global temperature and climate fluctuations: the sun, cosmic rays, deep ocean currents, volcanoes and other natural forces, as well as the 0.04% of Earth’s atmosphere that is carbon dioxide. It means comparing predictions with actual (non-averaged, non-manipulated) real-world observations and data. If the improved models still do not predict accurately, it means revising hypotheses and methodologies yet again, until they square with reality.
Meanwhile, our politicians owe it to us to start basing energy and environmental policies on reality: on how Earth’s climate and weather actually behave – and on how their policies, laws and regulations affect job creation and preservation, economic growth and opportunities, and human health and welfare, especially for poor and minority families, and even more so for the poorest people on our planet.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death, and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine.