In my opinion this entire sorry episode goes straight to the heart of the difference between the way alarmists like Williamson see the world, and the way normal people view the world. Alarmists seem to want their models, theories and opinions to be accepted as established fact. But the reality is their shaky theories are full of poorly supported conjecture and extrapolation.

Eric Worrall on WUWT, quoted by Dellers who has criticised Williamson's facile alarmism:

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Some Grist for the Millers of a Calmer Curriculum on Climate for Schools

It may seem harsh, but my supposition of what the reasoning process inside the minds of many people who have been successfully convinced by the climate scaremongering of the last 30 years or so is something like this:

'Gosh, the climate is changing.  Gosh, humans have an impact on climate.  Gosh, CO2 is called a greenhouse gas - and greenhouses quickly get very hot and unpleasant.   Gosh, we are releasing huge amounts of CO2.'

Each one of these insights bar one will be new to most people, since they will not have not studied the climate system, nor even given it much thought.   I included the 'gosh's to reflect this..  This novelty makes them vulnerable to the big conclusion:

'Gosh, we are in big trouble!'

Yet the evidence from climate records, both ancient and modern, does not suggest that the additional CO2 will have a dramatic effect, nor possibly even a readily detectable effect as a driver of climate change.  Furthermore, calmer analysts than the handful most culpable for the acute alarm about CO2 we now have to endure, have argued that the impact on climate (including temperatures) of a further doubling of ambient levels of that gas will range from negligible up to 'quite hard to detect'.

Unfortunately the alarming view has won far greater political and financial support than the calming one, and it may well take many a long year for the educational system to turn its back with contempt and outrage at some of the materials that have been produced for young people.  The seriously misleading movie called 'An Inconvenient Truth' is bad enough, but it has helped trigger a wave of materials no better or even worse than it.

The alarm has been sounded, the fear is widespread, and a great many individuals and organisations now have a vested interest in what it has led to in terms of government and other well-funded initiatives, including educational ones.  So what is to be said to current and former pupils once the tide of alarm has clearly turned?  It will not do merely to declare that some scientists and others were too easily scared by their computers and too willing to abandon their basic adult responsibility of avoiding ill-founded scaremongering.  They shouted fire in our theatre, and it will take a lot of time before many of the audience can relax enough to get back without this extra anxiety to more or even to less important matters, including a basic enjoyment of the great successes of the human play to date.

One approach is to show the relative importance of factors other than CO2.  An article posted on the GWPF site today reports on the work of one Nicola Scafetta, who argues that some 60% of the global warming observed since 1970 can be explained by cycles he has looked for in the system.  From this point of view, the modest warming observed over that period (similar in size and duration to a warming observed earlier in the 20th century and not blamed on CO2) is largely 'natural' and to be expected.  This of course diminishes the presumed importance of CO2 increases over this time, and thereby might help calm things down a bit with regard to that gas.  Note that he presents his work as just a theory, and he is awaiting critical review from his peers.  Just as he should.  I suspect he is not part of a cabal intent on concealment of data and methods, and other manipulations to protect and promote their theory at almost any cost in terms of their integrity as men and as scientists.  I daresay there will be no Climategate revelations to shock us about his groups of coworkers and colleagues.

His method is based on identifying cycles in climate records, and using them to make hindcasts and forecasts, both with some appreciable success according to his account.  He identifies three major mechanisms behind these cycles:

'There are three major mechanisms acting together: gravity, nuclear fusion - luminosity production, magnetism.
1) The planets act on the sun mostly via gravitational tidal forcings that are characterized by the astronomical harmonics in the same way that the tides on the Earth are regulated by lunar/solar gravitational harmonics.
2) The sun is in a state of almost perfect balance between gravitational forces and nuclear fusion luminosity production. This balance is very sensitive to gravitational or luminosity changes.   If, for example, gravitational forces make some additional work (relative to a given average) on the sun, the sun responds by increasing its luminosity production to restore the balance, and vice-versa.  The planetary tides slightly modulate the gravitational work balance inside the sun, and the sun responds by modulating its luminosity production. Because the luminosity production is energetically around 1,000,000 times the gravitational work released into the star, the solar core should work as a great amplifier of the planetary gravitational tidal energy.  Thus, solar luminosity and all dynamical solar processes end up oscillating with a set of frequencies related to the planetary frequencies. This is the theory I propose in my last published paper, just last week.
3) The oscillating sun induces equivalent magnetic oscillations in the heliosphere. Magnetic oscillations have numerous effects: they modulate the incoming cosmic ray flux and modulate other electric currents in the heliosphere, that is, they regulate the space weather which is mostly made of electric phenomena. These phenomena occur together with the luminosity oscillations.
The Earth system is very sensitive to these electric changes because they cause ionization of the upper atmosphere and regulate cloud formation. Thus, the cloud formation will approximately follow the astronomical harmonics and make the albedo oscillate by about 1-3% . An oscillating albedo causes oscillations in the amount of light reaching the surface of the Earth, which is what causes the oscillations observed in the surface temperature.
Of course at the moment not all single physical mechanisms are understood, quantified or modeled.
Point 1 has can be easily quantified
Point 2 has been quantified, at least I made a proposal,  but a full model also needs empirical modeling because solar physics is not so advanced.
Point 3 needs the understanding of how clouds form in details and the relation with cosmic ray etc. that is still under study. The modeling can be empirically done.'

Now it strikes me that these could be diluted and enlarged upon and illustrated in ways which could make it interesting and accessible to high school pupils, and perhaps even pictorially for younger children since even they have been the target of alarmists intent on recruitment for their dubious cause.  We can partially counter their scaremongering with the presentation and enjoyment of broader theories, promoting a proper respect for observations and scientific method, and for the wonderful ability we have of using them to make more sense of things, and to make more and more progress in industry and agriculture.

(hat-tip for GWPF piece linked to above: Tom Nelson)

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