Dangerously Stupid Science: Solar Geoengineering
By Jim Steele
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences recommended the United States pursue a robust research program into solar geoengineering, to reflect sunlight and forestall some of the worst effects of global warming. Seeking $200 million over 5 years for research from the Biden administration, those scientists push a climate crisis narrative, arguing greenhouse gas emissions are not falling quickly enough and, “Without decisive action and rapid stabilization of global temperature, risks from a changing climate will increase in the future, with potentially catastrophic consequences” This should alarm everyone. Not because a climate crisis is real, but because solar geoengineering is the height of stupidity and truly endangers humanity. Still solar blocking experiments were planned for June 2021 in Sweden. Fortunately objections from other scientists, environmentalists, and Indigenous groups just cancelled those plans … for now.
In contrast to many failed “climate crisis” predictions, there’s an abundance of research detailing the truly detrimental effects of decreased solar heating. Human suffering during the cooler Little Ice Age (LIA), spanning 1300 to 1850 AD, has been well documented. Scientists agree LIA cooling is linked to volcanic activity and several periods of reduced solar output associated with low sunspots, such as the Maunder Minimum that lasted from 1645 to 1715 AD. Satellites have verified that less solar energy is emitted when sunspots decline. During increased volcanic activity, volcanic aerosols are spewed into the atmosphere reflecting sunlight away from the earth. Likewise climate scientists seek to inject aerosols into the atmosphere to cool the earth. It’s mind-boggling that fear‑ridden scientists would want to return our climate to the cooler temperatures like Little Ice Age. So please examine what a similar LIA cooling of 1°C (1.8°F) could do.
Tropical rainfall patterns control the subsistence lifestyle of more than one billion people. Reconstructions of precipitation during the cooler 14th and 15th centuries reveal a series of monsoon mega‑droughts in central India, north-central China, and southern Vietnam, each lasting several years to decades. Although the Maunder Minimum increased rainfall in Africa’s Sahel, it also resulted in a megadrought in subtropical West Africa. Could cooling the earth be construed as racist?
Tropical rainfall and the Asian and Australian monsoons are largely controlled by the region where moisture carrying trade winds from the north and south converge. The earth’s greatest rainfall happens there and is called the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). It is easily recognized in satellite images as a band of heavy clouds.
As the sun moves northward during the northern hemisphere’s summer, the ITCZ likewise shifts northward, and a rainy season follows. During the winter as the ITCZ shifts southward the rainy season moves southward while the more northern region then experiences a dry season. Regions south of the ITCZ experience a dry season when northern tropics experience more rain and vice versa. Scientists have shown variations in solar strength alter the ITCZ and the accompanying rainfall. However the ITCZ does not strictly follow the sun. Its location is also affected by the temperature of the oceans and continents. During the LIA, cooler northern hemisphere temperatures pushed the average position of the ITCZ southward, resulting in the monsoonal megadroughts and famines that devastated India, and southeast Asia.
The LIA cooling of 1°C disrupted ocean and atmospheric circulation around the world, so that alternating good and bad weather whiplashed a struggling humanity. Indeed climate scientist Michel Mann wrote, “the Little Ice Age may have been more significant in terms of increased variability of the climate”. Bouts of extreme inclement weather from about 1550 to I700 AD brought famine and the age of great mortality to Europe. Ten percent of the population of northern France died in 1693-1694. In northern China, rapid cooling and increasing extreme disasters in the late 16th and 18th centuries resulted in severe social consequences characterized by more famine and popular unrest. The year 1816 was known as the Year Without a Summer, and prompted historians to write about The Last Great Subsistence Crisis in the Western World.
In contrast, with minimal increases in land use, our so-called warming crisis paired with the industrial world’s technological innovations to steadily increase global food production and feed a burgeoning global population that had increased from 600 million in 1700 to 7.7+ billion today.
In the polar Urals where trees had previously existed further northward, the colder 15‑19th century temperatures replaced forests with treeless tundra, as new tree growth was totally inhibited. On the other hand, twentieth century warming has now allowed tree line to recover its pre-LIA habitat. Satellite data reveals a global greening and multiple global ecosystem models suggest CO2 fertilization effects explain 70% of that observed greening trend. Long appreciating such CO2 fertilization, commercial growers around the world pump an extra 1000 ppm CO2 into their greenhouses to increase plant growth.
By the 1700s a new killer began to dominate the LIA – accidental hypothermia. When indoor temperatures fall below 48°F for prolonged periods, the human body struggles to keep warm, setting off a series of reactions that causes stress and heart attacks. During the intense cold season of I739/40, indoor temperature readings fell below the freezing point throughout Western Europe. Frozen rivers disrupted transportation, creating a shortage of coal and wood for home heating in urban locations causing numerous deaths from accidental hypothermia. The cold and dry weather also caused shortages of grass and fodder resulting in widespread death to livestock. Though not as devastating as the LIA thanks to modern heating, Americans from the Great Plains as far south as Texas were killed by cold weather with over 100 humans dying during the February 2021 cold snap.
The weaker LIA sun also cooled the upper 600 meters of the oceans, and reduced upwelling. Based on marine sediments off Peru, oceanographers uncovered very low marine productivity during the cooler LIA. But warming that began in 1850 soon brought rapid expansion of upwelled nutrient-rich waters, resulting in the present-day higher biological productivity from plankton to pelagic fish throughout the marine food web.
Its most disturbing that the varied crises predicted for a warmer 21st century were worse during the cooler LIA. For example global warming is predicted to spread tropical disease. However from 1564 to the 1730s – the coldest period of the Little Ice Age – malaria was an important cause of illness and death in several parts of England. Malaria outbreaks expanded into the Arctic. Transmission began to decline only in the 19th century, when the present warming trend was well under way. Similarly the first mosquito-borne yellow fever outbreaks in the United States occurred in late 1690s. Nearly 100 years later, in the late summer of 1793, refugees from a yellow fever epidemic in the Caribbean fled to Philadelphia. By the middle of October, 100 people were dying from the virus every day. Those outbreaks encouraged the US to move its capital from Philadelphia to Washington DC.
Major media outlets frequently fearmonger headlines such as “Melting Antarctic ice will raise sea level by 2.5 meters – even if Paris climate goals are met, study finds” . But the scientific community has produced solid evidence that Antarctica’s surface temperature has been cooling for the past 2000 years. The entire period from 141–1250 AD was warmer than 1971–2000. The LIA period of 1671–1700 was warmer than Antarctica is today. Scientists report that changes in the winds and natural upwelling of warmer deep waters best explain any changes in the basal melting of Antarctica’s ocean‑terminating glaciers
Major media outlets will cherry‑pick speculative research to proclaim, “Climate Change Is Making Hurricanes Stronger, Researchers Find”. However the Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index suggests other factors are in play. In the Southern Hemisphere (green line), there has been no change in cyclone energy. However in the Northern Hemisphere (blue line), hurricane energy varies with El Ninos and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
Experts examining historic archives of hurricane disturbances found the frequency of intense Caribbean hurricanes increased at around 1700 AD. Despite the region’s cooler LIA ocean temperatures, sediment records from Puerto Rico to New York indicate an increase in intense hurricane landfalls since about 1700 AD. Other researchers found more than 13 category‑2 or stronger hurricanes per century hit the Bahamas between 1500 to 1670 AD, compared to just 9+ per century since 1850 AD. Thus many experts now believe that sea surface temperatures as high as we now observe are not necessary to support intervals of frequent intense hurricanes. Intervals of frequent intense hurricane strikes over the past 5000 years corresponded primarily to periods with relatively few El Nino events and the strength of West African monsoon. Thus to accurately predict changes in intense hurricane activity, it is more important to understand how El Ninos will respond to futureclimate change. But there is absolutely no consensus on how rising CO2 affects natural El Ninos.
Media outlets, politicians and some scientists have also profited by blaming wildfires on climate change. The Union of Concerned Scientists (as many others have) presents a misleading graph of increasing wildfires since 1985. But cherry-picking a 1985 start date is blatant dishonesty. If we extend observations back into the LIA starting in 1700, there has been a clear decline throughout the fire prone southwestern US. Similarly in Quebec, a 300‑year fire history from 1688 to 1988 AD shows wildfires decreased starting 100 years ago.
The USGS admits there is no direct relationship between climate and wildfires. However the evidence clearly shows a direct relationship with more humans causing more wildfire ignitions while additionally making landscapes more fire prone. Fires need kindling like dead grass and twigs to start, and human disturbance has increased the supply invasive grasses. Dead grasses and twigs become highly flammable within just hours of warm dry temperatures that are common every summer regardless of climate change. Large fires also need an adequate fuel supply, and decades of fire suppression and poor fuel management have created more fuels that promote bigger fires. Furthermore many of California’s largest fires in recent decades occurred when local maximum temperatures were lower than in the 1930s.
So why are climate scientists suggesting the cooler temperatures of the LIA are the wiser ideal to pursue? It’s hard to comprehend when the science suggests otherwise. Of course every profession has its share of idiots and misguided professionals. In 1970 Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against the problems facing mankind. To ‘celebrate’ the 1970 Earth Day, Stanford’s Paul Ehrlich wrote “that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.” In 2012, the media trumpeted the prediction of Cambridge University’s world leading expert on sea ice of “the final collapse of Arctic summer sea ice within four years”. And in 2000 climate expert David Viner wrote, “Within a few years winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event…Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.”
None of these “expert opinions” have come to past. So why do some climate scientists continue to push climate crises???
It appears many intelligent scientists proclaiming a climate crisis suffer from the Pygmalion syndrome. Pygmalion was a great sculptor from Greek mythology who thought his statue of a woman was so beautiful and realistic he fell in love with it. He no longer became interested in real women. Likewise some climate modelers having invested their life’s work in sculpting life‑like climate change models, have become smitten with their model’s limited perspective and so downplay contradictory real-world observations. Some narcissistic scientists crave the attention that the media gives for predicting crises. Imitating the devious world of advertising, politicians pushing their own agenda seek out sympathetic scientists and under‑informed children to give credence and sympathy to whatever they are selling. Some junior scientists are afraid to contradict a bogus consensus even when their research suggests they should, while other climate scientists like Michel Mann hire their own PR person to sway opinions to favor their research.
Modelers too often eschew the bountiful evidence of real natural climate change when it competes with their CO2‑driven models. They downplay the myriad of critical factors that have caused change throughout history, to eliminate challenges to their belief only CO2 is the climate change control knob. Unprofessionally they denigrate all who dare question their model as deniers. But their deep love for their own models has become a fatal attraction. Not only do they try to suppress the very foundations of science and dismiss calls for further debate, they are advocating for highly dangerous and wasteful actions to block the sun. As the Little Ice Age scholar Robert Bolton insightfully warned, “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind”. Far too many are possessed by their willing belief in a climate crisis.
Jim Steele is director emeritus of the Sierra Nevada Field Campus, SFSU, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and proud member of the CO2 Coalition