Meetings in Denial

Ars Technica has an interesting piece from a science reporter who attended a climate skeptics’ conference. The whole thing is worth a read to see what passes for scientific insight from that sector of the populace.  Most depressing is the enthusiastic participation of the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

And while we’re wallowing in bad (or even non-) science, you can go see the rather uncritical piece that CNN put together on a very shaky study claiming that the Sun is about to drop Earth into a deep freeze. Rebuttals to this are slowly filtering in, but this is a reminder of a long-standing wish on the part of some astronomers that astronomical events dominate earth’s history (see Nemesis hypothesis, gamma-ray bursts and extinction, paleoclimate as solar activity indicator like Willie Soon’s work–GG recalls some older things with patterns in orbiting through the galactic arms, etc.).  While the Sun is certainly an important player in climate and you don’t discount its effects without some checking, such short-timeframe variations seem to have a limited climatic impact (Soon’s work, for instance, has been reexamined by many, and studies have also been done for a repeat of the Maunder Minimum of Little Ice Age fame).

Now to be fair, the research is really aimed at predicting the intensity of solar sunspot cycles based on a principal component analysis of three solar cycles; without understanding the physics underneath fully, it is basically advanced pattern matching.  It is offering a starting point for possible theories on multiple levels of convection in the Sun (the double dynamo alluded to in the press release). The connection to climate that the media latched on to is based on the speculation that the previous such minimum in solar activity occurred during the Little Ice Age, a speculation that has not been well supported.

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