Tuesday, June 10, 2008

About the solar heating meme

There's an increasingly popular GOP meme going round. The idea is that the earth is warming primarily because of increased solar radiation.

A few years back the same people said the earth isn't warming at all, and if Minnesota has another cool winter I'll be hearing that one again.

This is the intellectual equivalent of the bipartisan, but mostly left wing, conviction that vaccines cause autism. A plausible hypothesis, worthy of investigation, that persists when it fails our best available tests.

The solar forcing meme isn't as discredited yet as the vaccine/autism link, but my best science sources have it 1 foot underground.

These memes persist because they feed various emotional needs. In the case of solar radiative warming some of the more naive proponents also imagine their belief will decrease the urgency of CO2 reduction, but that's clearly illogical. If the sun were really adding to man-made warming our need to reduce CO2 emissions would be even more desperate.

So where does GOP talk radio get its ideas? From Bruce West, for one ...
Army Climate Skeptic: Global Warming is Man-Made | Danger Room from Wired.com

...Global warming is real, and at least partially man-made, according to controversial Army scientist Dr. Bruce West. Greenhouse gases have contributed to rising temperatures by as much as 70 percent, he said during a conference call with bloggers, arranged by the military.

For several years, West, the chief scientist of the Army Research Office's mathematical and information science directorate and an adjunct professor at Duke University, has been touting the Sun's effects on climate change -- and warning that the 'anthropogenic contribution to global warming' has been 'significantly over-estimated' by the the majority of the scientific community....
I'm an adjunct professor too. That's the academic equivalent of the mail-order doctor. It's silly to see someone using it as a credential.

Hobbyist sociologists will note several things here:
  1. The military arranged a conference call with bloggers.
  2. West is an IT manager, but he's talking about climate. He might as well talk about vaccines.
  3. Right wing talk radio loves this stuff.
  4. IT people have a lot of conviction about their amateur science efforts. Note I'm an IT person, basically. I have the same disease.
  5. Despite all that, he's saying warming is 70% due to man-made CO2 emissions ...
As science it's pretty weak, but as culture it's interesting.

Incidentally, the sharp rise in gas price is a serious threat. It's making coal and other high CO2 fuels incredibly attractive.

(BTW, even though the GOP war on science is particularly aggressive, the left has its issues too.)

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