03/07/2007 - 22:00

A ray of sunshine on warming

03/07/2007 - 22:00


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The latest issue of the Sydney right-of-centre journal, Quadrant, which Prime Minister John Howard regards highly, carries an editorial that considers various aspects of the ongoing debate surrounding the climate change puzzle.

The latest issue of the Sydney right-of-centre journal, Quadrant, which Prime Minister John Howard regards highly, carries an editorial that considers various aspects of the ongoing debate surrounding the climate change puzzle.

“It seems unlikely that a largish number of respectable and well-qualified scientists should be collectively wrong about such an important matter [global warming],” Quadrant writes.

“There are many scientists of the highest professional standing, with great intellectual achievements to their names, who are convinced of the reality of the problem of global warming and the dangers it represents to the future of the world.

“While the knowledgeable and well-qualified sceptics of the phenomenon should always be valued since they are playing an indispensable role in questioning and refining the conclusions of other experts, there is by now sufficient reason for non experts (the vast majority) to accept that there is something to worry about and for governments to seriously examine what, if anything, can be done about global warming and how urgent this is.”

Though careful not to say climate change was definitely anthropogenic – man-made – that’s what many experts and growing numbers of activists allege.

But will the so-called sceptics, the dissidents, mentioned almost as an afterthought, yet have the last say, if not last chuckle?

That’s a serious question, and one not as easily discounted as some may assume.

And State Scene raises it because of a point highlighted during a talk recently given in Perth by one of Western Australia’s most outstanding public policy figures, John Stone, a University of WA science graduate, Rhodes Scholar, plus much more.

His address to WA’s National Civic Council was titled: ‘Global warming’/climate change: can it/should it be taken seriously?

He said blaming global warming on the carbon economy – coal, petrol and dieseline – because so many scientists and eco-warrior propagandists said that was so, didn’t discredit the sceptics.

To emphasise this he highlighted what happened to a graduate from his old campus, medical researcher Barry Marshall, and Adelaide University graduate, Robin Warren, both now Nobel laureates.

They discounted the widely held medical fraternity view that stomach ulcers and gastritis were due to stress or spicy foods, contending that the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori, which they rediscovered in 1979, was the cause.

One source says: “In 1875, German scientists found bacteria in the lining of the human stomach.

“The bacteria could not be grown in culture and the results were eventually forgotten.

“In 1893, Giulio Bizzozero described helical shaped bacteria living in the acidic environment of the stomach of dogs.

“Professor Walery Jaworski of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków investigated sediments of gastric washings obtained from humans in 1899.

“He was the first to suggest a possible role of this organism in the pathogenesis of gastric diseases.

“This work was included in the ‘Handbook of Gastric Diseases’ but it did not have much impact as it was written in Polish.”

Drs Marshall and Warren isolated the organisms from mucosal specimens, one even going to the extent of swallowing the bacteria to prove their theory. And what, for so long, had been a minority view is now empirically proven.

Their stance has relevance to the global warming puzzle that’s being so heavily promoted and probably oversimplified by growing numbers of scientists, super-rich film and pop stars, and politicians.

Martin Livermore, director of the Scientific Alliance, warns: “Climate change is a unique issue, aligning environmentalists, the scientific establishment and politicians in an alliance which is intolerant of dissent.”

Mr Stone then highlighted cutting-edge research being undertaken by Danish National Space Centre (DNSC) scientists, who have established how cosmic rays emanating from exploding stars assist in forming low-level clouds in the earth’s atmosphere.

Their findings show that cosmic rays play a key but unappreciated role in the earth’s climate.

The Copenhagen team has shown that when cosmic rays – high speed atomic particles from exploding stars beyond the Milky Way – enter the earth’s atmosphere they form large quantities of ions and release free electrons.

Their experiment revealed that these free electrons play a role in “the formation of building blocks for cloud condensation nuclei on which water vapour condenses to make clouds”.

The experiment, called SKY, was undertaken in a huge reaction chamber containing a gas mixture similar to the earth’s lower atmosphere.

“Ultraviolet lamps mimicked the actions of the sun’s rays,” a DNSC statement said.

“During experimental runs, instruments traced the chemical action of the penetration cosmic rays in the reaction chamber.

“The data revealed that electrons released by cosmic rays act as catalysts, which significantly accelerate the formation of stable, ultra-small clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules, which are building blocks for the cloud condensation nuclei.

“A vast number of such microscopic droplets appeared, floating in the area in the reaction chamber.”

DNSC’s director of sun-climate research, Henrik Svensmark, said: “We were amazed by the speed and efficiency with which the electrons do their work of creating the building blocks for the cloud condensation nuclei.

“This is a completely new result within climate science.”

These results strongly back the theory earlier proposed by Dr Svensmark and colleague, Eigil Friis-Christensen, which contended that cosmic rays had an impact upon climate via cloud formation.

They’d claimed this because of a strong correlation between the variation in the intensity of cosmic radiation that penetrated the atmosphere and the amount of low-altitude cloud formation.

“Cloud cover increases when the intensity of cosmic rays grows and decreases when the intensity declines,” the DNSC statement said.

“It is known that low-altitude clouds have an overall cooling effect on the earth’s surface.

“Hence, variations in cloud cover caused by cosmic rays can change the surface temperatures.

“The existence of such a cosmic connection to earth’s climate might thus help explain past and present variations in earth’s climate.”

Dr Friis-Christensen said: “Many climate scientists have considered the linkages from cosmic rays to clouds to climate as unproven.

“Some said there was no conceivable way in which cosmic rays could influence cloud cover.

“The SKY experiment now shows how they do so, and should help to put the cosmic-ray connection firmly onto the agenda of international climate research.”

In his address to the National Civic Council Mr Stone said: “Why is this [DNSC’s experimental results] important?

“Because it seems to provide experimental evidence for a phenomenon long known to astronomers, namely that sunspot cycles, which have been observed and recorded for centuries, appears to be closely correlated with our weather.

“Solar radiation is, of course, being emitted constantly from our sun’s surface, but sunspots involve a stepping up of such radiation.

“Coming within the path of that radiation, the earth’s electro-magnetic field (or ‘shield’) can be seen as deterring more of the cosmic radiation from coming in from space.

“So if those Danish astrophysicists are right – and my gut feeling is that probably they are – then the relative intensity of sunspots will affect the relative extent of cloud formation on earth.

“In broad terms, the earth will get warmer if less cosmic radiation is getting through its electro-magnetic ‘shield’ to form those cloud condensation nuclei which go to form clouds: and it will get cooler if the opposite is the case.

“Of course, no real scientist would claim that the work of Dr Svensmark and his colleagues constitutes the definitive answer to our climate puzzles – still less that, even if it does, it will allow us to make realistic projections of our climate for centuries into the future.

“Its importance lies in the fact that, whereas the anthropogenic warming thesis is becoming less and less convincing as the years go by, the Svensmark thesis looks highly plausible.

“And, mirabile dictu [marvellous to say], the level of carbon dioxide emissions plays no role in it whatsoever.”

If that happens eco-warriors like Al Gore, Peter Garrett and Kevin Rudd will have as much humble pie to gulp down as Drs Marshall’s and Warren’s pooh-poohers, while Australians will have paid more for electricity and petrol so that highly paid panic merchants could be calmed down.


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