Ten Year Anniversary of the Climate Change Paradigm Shift

Science advances by paradigm shifts. My one-time co-researcher, Nobel Prize winning economist Herb Simon, once explained it to me. The new paradigm begins with a new overall curve. Further research builds upon that curve by mapping the phenomena responsible for fluctuations from the curve. That's the normal scientific process. But establishing a new big curve requires a paradigm shift.

Such a paradigm shift started a decade ago, when Israeli astrophysicist Nir Shaviv and Canadian geologist Jan Veizer published the ground-breaking study that laid out the chief long-term cause of climate change -- cosmic rays. The graph below shows the curve that they discovered. The original is found and explained on Nir Shaviv's blog at http://www.sciencebits.com/ice-ages:

Shaviv had mapped the travels of the solar system through the spiral arms of our galaxy (shown in the top half of the above graph). Veizer had mapped the ice ages of the last 500 billion years (shown, along with the fit to the cosmic ray inflow, in the temperature record in the bottom half of the above graph). What they found is that ice ages occurred when the Earth traveled through the spiral arms of our galaxy, periods when the Earth must have been experiencing high levels of cosmic ray inflow.

Other scientists had been laying the groundwork, but it was Shaviv's graph which caused the paradigm shift. At a time when the anthropogenic global warming paradigm was accepted by almost all scientists, his paper with Veizer was published in a geology journal, geology being the one scientific discipline that had never swallowed the man-centered view of climate change.

Geologists knew, from the geological record, that ice ages and greenhouse ages way preceded man in the Earth's history. Some also knew that carbon dioxide concentrations on today's Earth are low compared to the levels during earlier epochs. They did not share the usual inflated view of man's power and importance.

When advocates of the anthropogenic paradigm challenged Shaviv and Veizer's findings by claiming faulty data sets and faulty correlations, Shaviv responded in an 2006 article, published by a physics journal, in which he pointed out that his correlations work with two different signals of cosmic ray inflow and two different signals of earth temperatures, writing:

All four signals are consistent with each other, demonstrating the robustness of the link. If any data set is excluded, a link should still exist.

In recent years, more and more scientists have been exploring the new paradigm, called cosmoclimatology by Henrik Svensmark, one of its originators. In 2009, Jasper Kirkby gave a lecture at the CERN (Europe's premier research center) in which he reviewed the accumulating literature linking cosmic ray inflow variability with climate variability. One of Shaviv and Veizer's graphs was featured prominently in that lecture.

In 2011, Kirkby and his colleagues conducted an experiment at the CERN which provided a mechanism that could explain Shaviv and Veizer's correlation. They found that ground-level cosmic-ray concentrations can increase the rate that cloud condensation nuclei form by a factor of between 2 and 10. Thus cosmic rays can cause clouds to form which can reflect sunlight away from the Earth, cooling the planet.

Over the last decade, many studies have correlated cosmic ray inflow with Earth temperatures whether the scale is hundreds of millions of years or hundreds of years. On shorter time scales, it turns out that high levels of solar activity (i.e. sunspots) are correlated with global warmth partly because an active sun blocks out cloud-initiating cosmic rays.

But paradigm shifts do not come easily, especially not when politics gets involved. Take the shift away from the anthrocentered universe paradigm for example. Up until Galileo, most scientists thought that the universe revolved around Earth and mankind. Such a view appealed to man's vanity and was also popular among the powers of the day. When Galileo showed the explanatory power of the counter-paradigm that the earth circles the sun, he was forced by the Catholic Church to recant and sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life.

Like the anthrocentered universe paradigm, the anthropogenic climate change paradigm appealed to man's vanity. It asserted that man had the power to shape climate. It garnered political support from world-government advocates, including bureaucrats at the United Nations, who jumped on it as a vehicle to further their agenda.

As the expired paradigm's failures have become more and more obvious (see the Watts Up With That blog for daily examples), its advocates have become more and more shrill. Take the recent statement by Sally Jewell, Secretary of President Obama's Department of the Interior, for example. According to E&E News:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today challenged her employees to take an active role in the "moral imperative" to address climate change.

"I hope there are no climate change deniers in the Department of Interior," she said.

If there are any, she invited them to visit public lands managed by the agency - be it the melting permafrost in Alaska or shrinking snowpacks in the Sierra Mountains - as proof. "If you don't believe in it, come out into the resources," she said.

I have a different suggestion for Ms. Jewell. She should visit the Viking graves in Greenland that lie buried beneath the permafrost level there. Those graves were originally dug when Greenland was much warmer than it is today, before man began releasing carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere.

Shaviv is no "denier" of the truth. He is a scientist who is interested in discovering the truth, no matter what the political implications. Ms. Jewell is the "denier" of the truth. She is also so ignorant that she doesn't even know how ignorant she is.