Has the AGW argument imploded?

posted at 12:05 pm on August 31, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Has new research disproven the theoretical models of anthropogenic global warming?  A new study by a European nuclear research group appears to show that the actual prime cause of temperature shifts in the Earth’s climate isn’t carbon dioxide at all, or even the broader range of “greenhouse gases,” but the large ball of fire in the center of the solar system.  Not that this study from CERN has attracted much attention in the media, at least not in the US — but at least Nature reported the results and the implications:

It sounds like a conspiracy theory: ‘cosmic rays’ from deep space might be creating clouds in Earth’s atmosphere and changing the climate. Yet an experiment at CERN, Europe’s high-energy physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, is finding tentative evidence for just that.

Er, it really doesn’t sound like a conspiracy theory.  The notion that the sun heats the planets is rather mundane, or at least it used to be before scientists started claiming that carbon dioxide would superheat the atmosphere.  In fact, AGW skeptics have long pointed to solar cycles as a much more likely explanation for the gradual but uneven warming seen over the last century or so.

To find out, Kirkby and his team are bringing the atmosphere down to Earth in an experiment called Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets (CLOUD). The team fills a custom-built chamber with ultrapure air and chemicals believed to seed clouds: water vapour, sulphur dioxide, ozone and ammonia. They then bombard the chamber with protons from the same accelerator that feeds the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle smasher. As the synthetic cosmic rays stream in, the group carefully samples the artificial atmosphere to see what effect the rays are having.

Early results seem to indicate that cosmic rays do cause a change. The high-energy protons seemed to enhance the production of nanometre-sized particles from the gaseous atmosphere by more than a factor of ten. But, Kirkby adds, those particles are far too small to serve as seeds for clouds. “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step,” he says.

Lawrence Solomon declares the science settled already in his column at the Financial Post.  He also notes that Kirby has a reason to downplay the results of the research, and it’s not because of scientific caution:

The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, convincing new evidence demonstrates, but Al Gore, the IPCC and other global warming doomsayers won’t be celebrating. The new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth. …

Nigel Calder, a former editor of The New Scientist who attended that 1996 conference, would not be cowed. Himself a physicist, Mr. Calder became convinced of the merits of the argument and a year later, following a lecture he gave at a CERN conference, so too did Jasper Kirkby, a CERN scientist in attendance. Mr. Kirkby then convinced the CERN bureaucracy of the theory’s importance and developed a plan to create a cloud chamber — he called it CLOUD, for “Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets.”

But Mr. Kirkby made the same tactical error that the Danes had — not realizing how politicized the global warming issue was, he candidly shared his views with the scientific community.

“The theory will probably be able to account for somewhere between a half and the whole of the increase in the Earth’s temperature that we have seen in the last century,” Mr. Kirkby told the scientific press in 1998, explaining that global warming may be part of a natural cycle in the Earth’s temperature.

The global warming establishment sprang into action, pressured the Western governments that control CERN, and almost immediately succeeded in suspending CLOUD. It took Mr. Kirkby almost a decade of negotiation with his superiors, and who knows how many compromises and unspoken commitments, to convince the CERN bureaucracy to allow the project to proceed. And years more to create the cloud chamber and convincingly validate the Danes’ groundbreaking theory.

Solomon says that CERN has “found the path to the Holy Grail of climate change,” although they seem intent on hiding the evidence of it.  Solomon links to a graph that Nature apparently didn’t publish, which shows the reaction from cosmic rays in the CLOUD chamber and the rapid creation of particles associated with cloud formation in the atmosphere:

The graph above does not appear in the print edition of Nature, but it does make showing at the back of the online supplementary material. The graph shows how cosmic rays promote the formation of clusters of molecules that can then grow and seed clouds in the real atmosphere.

At 03.45 am in a CLOUD experiment in Geneva, ultraviolet light began to create molecules in the cloud chamber, which approximates the air in the atmosphere. Jn above shows the neutral phase of the experiment, during which the CLOUD experiment electrically removed ions and molecular clusters. At 4.33 am, the CLOUD experiment stopped the electrical removal and allowed natural glalactic cosmic rays (Jgcr) to enter the chamber through the roof of the Geneva building, leading to a faster rate of cluster buildup.

Then, at  4.58 am, CLOUD also beamed charged pion particles (Jch) from an accelerator (these are equivalent to cosmic rays), the rate of cluster production took off, convincingly demonstrating the effect of cosmic rays on cluster growth.

British newspapers like the Register and the Telegraph have reported on the results from CERN, but it’s not received much attention from the American media.  Investors Business Daily wonders why all of those who proclaimed the supposedly “settled science” are now so quiet:

With the help of an eager media, they have spun a nearly believable tale of fright and insulated themselves well from the skeptics.

But their days are few. Truth keeps getting in the way of their indoctrination effort.

And it’s not just the CERN research creating a problem for them. They also need to explain why sea levels, like presidential approval numbers and consumer confidence, have fallen. According to NASA, the oceans are down a quarter of an inch this year compared to 2010.

Under the rules of climate change, sea levels, due to melting ice and water that expands as it warms, should be increasing in a way that we’re all supposed to believe is a threat. But NASA scientists say that El Nino and La Nina, weather cycles in the Pacific Ocean, have caused sea levels to fall.

The new CERN research is certainly promising.  I’d like to see more before we declare it a Holy Grail, however.  Scientific concepts require reproducibility for credibility, although it’s certainly true that AGW has been a glaring exception to the scientific method.  The first results of this research explain a lot of the failures of the AGW models, which relied on CO2 as a trigger for temperature increases with no correlation ever proven and no AGW climate model ever producing an accurate prediction.  Let’s stick to actual science rather than blind devotion to faith, which is all that AGW advocates have now to keep going.

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