- - Sunday, May 17, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama continues to prophesy “dangerous” global warming, due to fossil fuels. Computer modelers conjure up crisis scenarios based on their assumption that carbon dioxide drives climate change.

What if they are wrong? What if the sun refuses to cooperate?

“The sun is almost completely blank,” meteorologist Paul Dorian notes. Virtually no sunspots darken its face. “The main driver of all weather and climate has gone quiet again during what is likely to be the weakest sunspot cycle in more than a century.”

Going back to 1755, only a few solar cycles have had a lower number of sunspots during their maximum phase, he adds. This continued downward trend began two decades ago, just before Earth stopped warming. If sunspots continue declining for a couple more cycles, Earth could enter another “grand minimum,” an extended period of low solar activity.

Reading University space physicist Mike Lockwood agrees. Solar activity is falling perhaps “faster than at any time in the last 9,300 years,” he observes.

That would mean less incoming solar radiation, which could have a marked cooling effect — as happened during previous decadeslong episodes of low solar activity. The “Maunder Minimum” lasted 70 years (1645-1715), the “Dalton Minimum” 40 years (1790-1830). They brought even colder temperatures to the “Little Ice Age.”

Habibullo Abdussamatov, director of Russia’s space research laboratory and its global warming research team, is convinced another little ice age is on its way. That would be Little Ice Age No. 19.

A couple degrees warmer would be good for humanity and planet, especially with more plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide in the air. Crops, forests and grasslands would grow faster and better. Longer growing seasons over larger areas of land would support more habitats, wildlife, agriculture and people — particularly if everyone has access to ample, reliable, affordable motor fuels, electricity and modern farming technologies.

Most people, including the elderly, can easily handle such warmth, especially with air conditioning.

But a couple degrees colder would bring serious adverse consequences for habitats, wildlife, agriculture and humanity. This does not mean another Pleistocene ice age — with glaciers obliterating forests and cities under mile-thick walls of ice across North America, Europe and Asia. It may not even mean a full-blown little ice age.

However, just a 2-degree drop in average global temperatures would shrink growing seasons, cropland and wildlife habitats. Agriculture would be curtailed across Canada, northern Europe and Russia, putting greater pressure on remaining land to feed hungry families without turning more habitats into cropland. Land now devoted to corn for ethanol would have to be returned to food crops.

Our ability to feed Earth’s growing population would be seriously impaired, especially if radical environmentalists continue opposing chemical fertilizers, insecticides, biotechnology and mechanized farming. Those technologies would ensure far more food per acre under colder conditions, even if anti-hydrocarbon policies mean crops are starved for carbon dioxide.

Colder climates can also bring more unpredictable storms and cold snaps during shortened growing seasons. That happened frequently during the last Little Ice Age (1350-1850), spreading crop failures, hunger, malnutrition, starvation and disease across much of Europe.

Worst of all, cold kills. Modern homes and buildings with affordable heat make it easy to survive even brutal winters in comfort. However, carbon taxes, restrictions on coal and natural gas, renewable energy mandates and other ill-conceived programs have sent electricity and home heating prices soaring.

When energy is rationed, expensive and unpredictable, businesses lay off people or close their doors. Forced into welfare, people suffer poor health and well-being. The elderly are especially susceptible.

In Britain, many pensioners now ride buses or sit in libraries all day to stay warm; others burn used books in stoves. (They’re cheaper than coal or wood.) Thousands die of hypothermia because they can no longer afford proper heat.

In Germany, Greece and other countries, rising energy costs have caused a surge in illegal tree-cutting and wildlife poaching, as desperate families try to stay warm and feed themselves.

These realities portend what will likely happen on a far larger scale if Earth enters another prolonged cold era. Widespread turmoil, rising death tolls and climate refugees by the millions could become reality.

Climate modelers must get their predictions right so we can be properly prepared. That means basing models on all the forces that determine global temperatures and climate fluctuations: the sun, cosmic rays, deep ocean currents, volcanoes and other powerful natural forces — not just carbon dioxide, which represents a mere 0.04 percent of Earth’s atmosphere.

It means comparing predictions with actual real-world observations and data. If the models still do not predict accurately, modelers must revise their hypotheses and methodologies yet again, until forecasts square with reality.

Meanwhile, politicians must base energy policies on how Earth’s climate and weather actually behave — and on how laws and regulations affect jobs, economic growth, and human health and welfare, especially for poor and middle-class American families and the poorest people on our planet.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT.org), author of “Eco-Imperialism: Green Power — Black Death” (Merril Press, 2010), and coauthor of “Cracking Big Green: Saving the World from the Save-the-Earth Money Machine” (CFACT, 2014).

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