By Michael Osbun
On the last day of August, scientists spotted a teeny-weeny sunspot, breaking a 51-day streak of blemish-free days for the sun. If it had gone just a bit longer, it would have broken a 96-year record of 53 days without any of the magnetic disruptions that cause solar flares. That record was nearly broken last year as well.
Wait, it gets even more exciting.
During what scientists call the Maunder Minimum -- a period of solar inactivity from 1645 to 1715 -- the world experienced the worst of the cold streak dubbed the Little Ice Age. At Christmastime, Londoners ice-skated on the Thames, and New Yorkers (then New Amsterdamers) sometimes walked over the
Of course, it could have been a coincidence. The Little Ice Age began before the onset of the Maunder Minimum. Many scientists think volcanic activity was a more likely, or at least a more significant, culprit. Or perhaps the big chill was, in the words of scientist
Well, we just might find out. A new study in the
Meanwhile, the journal Science reports that a study led by the
Scientists have known for centuries that sunspots affected the climate; they just never understood how. Now, allegedly, the mystery has been solved.
Last month, in another study, also released in Science,
What is the significance of all this? To say I have no idea is quite an understatement, but it will have to do.
Nonetheless, what I find interesting is the eagerness of the authors and the media to make it clear that this doesn't have any particular significance for the debate over climate change. "For those wondering how the (NCAR) study bears on global warming,
This overlooks the fact that solar cycles are permanent "periodic occurrences," a.k.a. a very long-term trend. Yet Meehl insists the only significance for the debate is that his study proves climate modeling is steadily improving.
I applaud Meehl's reluctance to go beyond where the science takes him. For all I know he's right. But such humility and skepticism seem to manifest themselves only when the data point to something other than the mainstream narrative about global warming. For instance, when we have terribly hot weather, or bad hurricanes, the media see portentous proof of climate change. When we don't, it's a moment to teach the masses how weather and climate are very different things.
No, I'm not denying that man-made pollution and other activity have played a role in planetary warming since the Industrial Revolution.
But we live in a moment when we are told, nay lectured and harangued, that if we use the wrong toilet paper or eat the wrong cereal, we are frying the planet. But the sun? Well, that's a distraction. Don't you dare forget your reusable shopping bags, but pay no attention to that burning ball of gas in the sky -- it's just the only thing that prevents the planet from being a lifeless ball of ice engulfed in darkness. Never mind that sunspot activity doubled during the 20th century, when the bulk of global warming has taken place.
What does it say that the modeling that guaranteed disastrous increases in global temperatures never predicted the halt in planetary warming since the late 1990s? (
I don't know what it tells you, but it tells me that maybe we should study a bit more before we spend billions to "solve" a problem we don't understand so well.
New investments in the clean energy technologies of the future would slash global warming pollution and reduce the use of foreign oil while also creating jobs and increasing our economic competitiveness vis-Ã -vis China and other nations.
Cap-and-Trade Would Make the American Dream a Nightmare
In 1984, the late historian
It makes you wonder. For all the rush and panic, the truth is, climate change -- if real -- is a very slow-moving catastrophe. Moreover, it happens to align with an ideological and political agenda the left has been pushing for generations. What a convenient truth for environmentalists
When It Pays to Go Green
Going green sometimes comes with a price: Organic vegetables can cost twice as much as their mainstream counterparts. So when is going green really worth it? We asked some top environmental experts to weigh in -- and their answers might surprise you. They say that while spending extra is often justified, you can almost always find a cheaper alternative.
To a large degree, our cars are us, and restricting how we drive is tantamount to threatening our independence. In the bigger picture, however, this is just a reactionary response. The critical thinkers among us know that freedom demands responsibility, knowledge, and considerate action. We have good reason to reduce the speed at which we drive, for personal gain as well as the good of the nation.
Motorist compliance with the 55 mph limit has always been problematic. Ticketing binges, threatened financial sanctions, relentless PR, and increased fines and penalties failed to stem noncompliance. Despite increasing noncompliance and increased highway speeds, fatality rates continue to decline, contradicting the folklore that higher speed limits and higher speeds result in more serious accidents.
You can write to Jonah Goldberg in care of this newspaper or by e-mail at JonahsColumn@aol.com.
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