Reports of imminent climatic catastrophes are turning out to be rather anticlimactic. That's because rather than heating up to life-threatening levels, new scientific findings indicate it's more likely the Earth will cool in coming years. That's bad news for a global-warming industry heavily invested in a sultry forecast.
Cornelis de Jager, a solar physicist from the Netherlands and former secretary-general of the International Astronomical Union, announced that the sun is about to enter a period of extremely low sunspot activity, which historically is associated with cooling trends. Backed by other scientists, he predicted the "grand solar minimum" is expected to begin around 2020 and last until 2100.
The ebb of solar activity is shaping up to resemble what occurred during the Little Ice Age, the period from 1620 to 1720 when sunspot activity diminished and temperatures dropped an estimated 3 degrees Celsius. The era was noted for colder-than-usual winters in North America and Europe, when rivers and canals froze over, allowing for ice-skating and winter festivals. It also resulted in crop failure and population displacement in northern regions such as Iceland. To characterize the impending grand solar minimum as an "ice age" - with glaciers forming at temperate latitudes - would be an exaggeration. The correlation between decreased sunspot activity and falling temperatures means it's likely to get colder when the sunspots begin to disappear.
Global-warming zealots are steamed. They've already cleverly rebranded their movement as "climate change" in order to appear relevant no matter what the thermometer reads, but the recent findings could undermine the basis for their cause. They assert that man-made greenhouse gases - not that big fireball in the sky - are responsible for heating up the Earth and threaten to end life as we know it. After nearly a generation of politically driven growth, countless careers and billions of dollars have been sunk into this fairy tale. Nothing would discredit the story more quickly than tumbling mercury.
Consequently, those invested in global warming have vigorously assaulted the news of an approaching solar minimum with hammer and ice pick. Correlation does not imply causation, they argue, insisting that the Little Ice Age was not caused by diminished sunspot activity but by volcanoes that spewed sun-reflecting clouds into the atmosphere during that era. Tellingly, warmists dismiss skeptics who suggest elevated atmospheric carbon-dioxide is the result rather than the cause of rising temperatures.
Uncertainty about whether human activity could cause the Earth to heat up warrants healthy skepticism, but warmism is rooted in faith, not fact. Peeling back its green disguise, the movement wants to impose globe-spanning environmental regulations with a view toward turning the clock back to the time before the Industrial Revolution. As Al Gore preached in his 1993 book, "Earth in the Balance," "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."
The goal of society has always been to improve the human condition and for one generation to leave a better world for the next. Crippling the engines of progress, particularly in the production of affordable energy, will lead not to paradise on Earth, but to poverty and squalor. If it takes a chilly breeze to silence the retrograde movement, Mr. de Jager's news is welcome indeed.
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