The Royal Society and the “dead hand of consensus”

Contributed by Bob Foster

There is no one “contrarian view” on climate change – nor should there be. What is needed, surely, is a ferment of ideas – each judged on its intrinsic merit, and not just on the status of its proposer – to serve collectively as a contra to the dead hand of consensus, which currently strangles thinking in climate-change science. Anyone who believes that the science of climate is already resolved is either naïve, or has confused science with politics. No-one understands climate in all crucial aspects.

An eminently plausible hypothesis is that Earth does not journey in an empty universe. Neither does it enjoy a self-contained climate – stable until only now disturbed by people burning fossil fuels. Correlations suggest that the primary driver of our ever-changing climate, from the multi-millennial time-scale right down to that better called weather, is extra-terrestrial.

Crucially, the timing of future solar/planetary influences can be calculated; and if the Sun keeps playing by the rules, the next Little Ice Age cold period will be fully developed by 2030. People suffered terribly in the Maunder Minimum.

One of the reasons why the climate-science establishment – Royal Society, World Meteorological Organisation, and their ilk – can sustain its implausible hypothesis of a stable and benign climate during pre-industrial Arcadia, disturbed only now (for the worse, of course) by humans burning fossil fuels, is that the influence of the Sun has been restricted in their analyses to solar irradiance – which doesn’t vary much. In effect, this sleight-of-hand has enabled the Society, endorsed by learned academies around the world, to invoke an autonomous Earth with a self-contained climate –of necessity, journeying in an empty Universe.

Science has turned almost full-circle. Only a small further swing would bring us back to before 1534, when Copernicus blew the whistle on the establishment belief that Earth occupied a preferred location at the centre of the Universe. (“On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres” wasn’t removed from the Index [of Forbidden Books] until 1850.) Remember, too, poor Galileo, who was forced to swear “I abjure, curse, and detest these aforesaid heresies” – or burn.

The mainstream does not quarrel with the view of palaeoclimatologists that Earth is now in an unusually cold era (Pleistocene Ice Age), comprising long glacials and short interglacials, including the current Holocene Interglacial. But it eschews implicating the Sun in this cyclicity. Instead, it enlists the Milankovitch hypothesis, whereby variation in orbital eccentricity is primary driver of the ca.100ky glacial/interglacial periodicity, with variable tilt and precession contributing at shorter (40-20ky) time-scales. Thus, the effect of a little-varying Sun is modulated by Earth itself, to derive a deeply-variable climate at the multi-millennial scale (eg. a kilometre of ice at the site of Detroit until about 10ky before the present.)

It is said (correctly) by the mainstream that Milankovitch, right or wrong, is irrelevant at the decades/centuries time-scale of concern to humans. However, this doesn’t leave much Establishment-authorised scope for explaining shorter-term variability, does it? Volcanic eruptions, certainly; ice-stream surges, probably; vaporising clathrate, possibly; and, of course, we uncaring humans; but NO Sun!

What about future climate? The Establishment has handed the baton to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In its Third Assessment Report (TAR) of 2001, IPCC “projected” 1990-2100 warming in the range of 1.4 to 5.8 oC. These low/high end-points rely, respectively, on IPCC’s implausibly-high and unimaginably-high projections of economic growth in Third World nations.

Despite the best endeavours of brave and determined economists Ian Castles (Australia) and David Henderson (UK), IPCC is retaining its outlandish TAR economic projections for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) due out in 2007. Just to show how bizarre these economics are, per-capita GDP for Australia was US$ 17,000 (market-exchange-rate basis) in 1990. In 2100, according to IPCC’s “storylines”, it will be a plausible-sounding 55-61 (US$ 1990 thousands) – compared to Afghanistan 69-78, and Zimbabwe 68-87. South Africa, with the world’s highest coal intensity (76%) in primary energy use, will do even better. In 1990, its per-capita GDP was a minuscule 2.8; and by 2100, it will be 394-470!

Apologists for IPCC, say that only those for collective supra-regional GDP projections are “approved’ – not those for individual nations. So be it; but obviously, if IPCC adjusts-down South African economic growth, in its AR4 work-sheets, another country will have to go up even more to keep whole its (pre-approved) total projected coal consumption.

IPCC’s high-end (A1FI) “scenario” has world consumption of (carbon-rich) coal increasing by an amazing 37% between 1990 and 2000. In reality, it grew just over half as fast – 21% during 1990-2004. Can real scientists accept, and use as underpinning for their own climate-related work, the emissions projections and consequent range of future global warming proffered up by IPCC? Scientists can and do. Unquestioningly – as if they were Holy Writ. (As an awful example, there is no need to look further than CSIRO’s 2070 Australian regional climates.)

I here offer an eminently-plausible alternative hypothesis which needs no assumption of GDP growth in order to forecast – not just “project” – future climate. This relies on a Sun-climate connection. No more autonomous Earth! No more self-contained climate! The ejection of charged particles into the solar wind varies not by fractions of a per cent, like insolation, but by orders of magnitude (it can reach billions of tonnes per event, at some 2 million oC, accelerated to 5-700 km/sec). Solar eruptive activity impacts on Earth in various ways (doubtless, including some quite unrecognised), and at all time-scales from the multi-millennial to the diurnal. Crucially, the timing – although not yet the Earthly impact, per se – of future solar variability can be calculated.

Why has the Sun, and as potentially useful a concept as that of solar variability (because of the predictive power it offers), been overlooked? Juliet said: “Pay no worship to the garish Sun”, and mainstream science still complies.

We have seen it all before. For 50 years, mainstream scientists fought like tigers to prevent Wegener’s hypothesis of continental drift from superseding the uniformitarianism of Hutton/Lyell. Even as the trickle of supporting correlations became a flood, the mainstream countered by (correctly) asserting that no causative mechanism for drifting continents had been demonstrated. Furthermore, as contrarian evidence grew, the mainstream offered more and more baroque explanations of how plants and animals came to be where found (such as intermittent land-bridges, of which no trace remains) in its futile endeavour to prevent the advancement of scientific understanding. The hypothesis of uniformitarianism is long forgotten; and nowadays, the dominant paradigm is plate tectonics plus sea-floor spreading.

But in climate science, the spirit of uniformitarianism lingers on. Way back in 1892, the Royal Society president (Lord Kelvin) concluded

“that the supposed connection between magnetic storms (on Earth) and sun-spots is unreal and that the seeming agreement between the periods has been mere coincidence”.

The Sun-Earth connection was spurned again, when IPCC’s hypothesis of a people-driven climate was resoundingly endorsed in a statement prepared by a new president of the Royal Society (Sir Robert May, now the Lord May of Oxford) on behalf of 17 learned academies, including Australia’s Academy of Sciences. This statement was published as an Editorial in Science, “The science of climate change” (18 May 2001, v.292 p.1261); it began:

The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represents the consensus of the international scientific community on climate change science. We recognize the IPCC as the world’s most reliable source of information on climate change and its causes; and we endorse its method of achieving this consensus. Despite increasing consensus on the science underpinning predictions of global climate change, doubts have been expressed recently about the need to mitigate the risks posed by global climate change. We do not consider such doubts justified.

I promise I am not making this up: Sir Robert’s opening paragraph uses “consensus” three times. The advancement of science really is a matter of voting, it seems. Nothing has changed.

The Society’s “Policy document 06/05” of April 2005, submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs inquiry into the economics of climate change, keeps the solar-door firmly closed. It includes “A guide to facts and fictions about climate change”, saying: This document examines twelve misleading arguments put forward by the opponents of urgent action on climate change and highlights the scientific evidence that exposes their flaws.

Misleading arguments 4 is:

The Earth is getting hotter, but not because of emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities. … Variations in the sun are more likely to be the cause of climate changing than increases in greenhouse gases.

By way of purported scientific justification, the document adds:

The IPCC found that the dominant influences on climate change in the early part of the 20th century were likely to be a small increase in solar output and a decrease in average volcanic activity. However such natural factors cannot explain the warming in the latter half of the century, and the IPCC concluded that there is “new and stronger evidence that most of the warning observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”.

The report pointed out that natural factors on their own would have produced an overall drop in global average temperatures. So much for the Sun-Earth connection! There is obviously a long way to go before adequate understanding in this intensely unfashionable, and hence little-studied, aspect of climatology is attained. However, despite scientific neglect and antipathy, there appear to be at least four already-emerging elements to this unsung relationship.

ONE: Most of the angular momentum of the solar system is held by the giant outer planets, and their collective motions drive the Sun’s irregular orbit about the centre-of-mass of the system. Variable torque applied to the Sun (an inertial effect) is the principal driver of solar-magnetic outflow, and this modulates the incidence of cloud-inducing cosmic rays penetrating the heliosphere – and reaching Earth. Cosmogenic isotopes preserved in sediments, cave-deposits, and ice-cores, provide a proxy for the variable intensity of past cosmic bombardment. Solar magnetic activity has been stronger since the 1940s than for ten thousand years. The timing of changes in solar activity can be calculated from planetary motions; and this is the basis of: Theodor Landscheidt 2003, “New Little Ice Age instead of global warming?”, Energy & Environment v.14 no.2&3, pp.327-50.

TWO: The ca.11-year (Schwabe) solar sunspot cycle provides a readily-observable proxy for current solar activity. Solar magnetic polarity reverses at around the peak of each Schwabe cycle to form the ca. 22-year double-sunspot (Hale) magnetic cycle. Correlations indicate that the Hale cycle is climatically influential, particularly in relation to rainfall variability. A good example (from South Africa) is: William J.R. Alexander 2005, “Linkages between solar activity and climatic responses”, Energy & Environment v.16 no.2, pp. 239-53.

THREE: Like the outer giants, the small inner planets orbit the Sun. Their collective motions keep our Star in a state of resonance, in which Mercury is particularly influential. Four points of resonant sensitivity (Dickman Cross) on the solar equatorial plane are recognised, with one at the azimuth of Mercury’s perihelion (75o) – thus the Cross does not rotate as the Sun rotates. When a planet (inner, outer, or even distant Pluto) passes one of these four points, excitation increases; and it can greatly increase at a time of multiple resonant conjunctions. This powerful new aid to understanding observed solar activity, and predicting future activity (with potential impacts on Earth), is described for the first time in: Kenneth W. Dickman 2006, “Short and longer-term planetary effects on Sun and Earth”, Energy & Environment v. 17 no. 1, pp. 63-73.

(A timely opportunity to further test – but, of course, not ‘prove’ – the validity of the quite revolutionary Dickman Cross hypothesis, is in the offing. Distant Uranus, because of its lengthy orbital period (84 years), has a very low angular velocity; and will maintain contact with the 345o resonant point for a year or more. Close-in Mercury, with an 88-day orbit will pass through the full sequence of four points several times while Uranus remains influential; and some intermittent low-level disturbance on Sun and Earth is to be expected. However, on 6/7 June 2006, Venus (225-day orbit) will join Uranus; fast-orbiting Mercury will attain the 165o resonant position directly opposite them; and Earth will be at the 255o point of resonance;. A discernible jump in activity on the Sun is the likely outcome.

Will there be a response here? It is hard to say. Earth will be at right angles to the ‘main action’; and energetic solar outbursts tend to be directional. Based on analogy with the past, recognisable earthly outcomes might include a long-lived geomagnetic storm, and perhaps, consequent interference with radio communication or long-distance power transmission; an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or windstorm, of more than quotidian significance; or perhaps an abrupt change between El Niño and La Niña conditions; or even, nothing.)

FOUR: Overprinted on the (solar-related) 300-year warming trend since the Maunder Minimum “Quiet Sun” (1645-1715) is a 50/70-year cold-warm cyclicity which appears to be the main multi-decadal influence on global climate. This was represented by the increase of upwelling in the Pacific in the mid-1940s (coincidentally, just when post-WW2 fossil fuel use began to skyrocket), leading to three decades of modest global cooling. It was abruptly reversed in 1976/7, by the curtailed up-welling of the Great Pacific Climate Shift – the most-prominent climatic event of the 20th Century. (The next reversal is due shortly.)

A notable feature of this Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) cyclicity is the correlatory indication that it is inertially-driven, because it follows reversals in the trend of length-of-day (LOD) change. But this is only half the story. LOD inflection points follow reversals in the torque applied by the giant planets to the Sun. Thus, also, PDO appears to have an underlying planetary driver. Therefore, the (inertially-driven) multi-decadal oscillation in global climate is also amenable to prediction.

Furthermore, shorter-term El Niño/La Niña variability (also inertia-related) could perhaps be predictable. Sadly, these considerations have not yet been satisfactorily ventilated in comprehensive papers which can here be referenced. Indeed, would-be authors are finding some reticence among scientific journals.

Today, an incurious mainstream is content to “project” future climate on the basis of consensus science, underpinned by spurious economics. If the advancement of scientific understanding were simply a matter of voting, we would already know that there is no Sun-Earth connection. But this is not just an esoteric academic issue.

Lives might be spared, if scientists are prepared to pose – and seek to answer – questions such as: When will the next Indian famine happen? or When will the next Little Ice Age cold period be fully developed?

It is time for the Royal Society to apply its enormous influence in a positive way. How will a billion people be fed when the Indian monsoon fails? How will an energy-deficient NW Europe keep warm in the Landscheidt Minimum? These events are likely to be within the planning-horizon of responsible governments – but planners need early warning.

People don’t drive climate; it’s the Sun. Instead of manning the barricades in defence of an implausible hypothesis, humanity would be better served if the Society were to lead an open-minded search for improved understanding of our ever-varying climate.

7 thoughts on “The Royal Society and the “dead hand of consensus””

  1. Later this year, a paper will be coming out that will indicate that the sun is very close to entering a Maunder Minimum like interval. It will start around 2015. Can’t say more. Watch the scientific literature.

  2. It never ceases to amaze me that so many modern scientists can ignore the sad history “concensus science.”

  3. “concensus science” is not so surprising if you remember the history of microscopes and telescopes, a new field of view !! never.

    Halton C. Arp had a new field of view, see and lost his viewing rights and had to go to Germany to continue his work. The electric cosmos has great relevance to the Global Warming debate. If you study NASA reports and photos, the Solar System is undergoing great change, heating, Auroras, atmospheric composition, “volcanic” activity that may well be electrical, interstellar dust increasing threefold over the last few years.
    Induced current heating is commonplace in the kitchen, can it be completely ruled out in the solar system when a planet such as Neptune is giving off more heat as it receeds from the Sun in its long orbit ?

    When NASA remarks “a thousand percent increase in the bright cloud surrounding Saturn” and “mystifying x-rays coming from the equatorial regions of Saturn” then I don’t think the ‘mea culpa’ is required for global warming.

  4. I am getting quite concerned. The masses are being wound up to anticipate warming tipping points and some sort of Carboniferous future. Nothing, so far as I can tell, is being done to cope with the impacts, should something quite different occur. We are very, very exposed. And the chances of getting the leaders of government, industry or academie to look at it and to have a contingency plan, given all the warming hype, is about nil. I am seriously worried that, to draw upon an anology, what we are doing en masse vis a vis “climate prediction” right now is akin to the Bull Market of 1929. Everyone is prepared for a continued rise and would be utterly dumbfounded if things move in the opposite direction.

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