About forty years ago, before the whole Global Warming mania got well and truly off the ground, people were concerned about the earth cooling. The consequences of such a climate change would arguably be worse than Al Gore’s most feverish imaginings – devastating crop failures and widespread famine. This happened in the late 17th Century, during a seventy-year period called the Maunder Minimum, also known as the Little Ice Age, when the River Thames predictably froze.
Well bundle up, because it may be happening again. In a development that has seen predictably little coverage in the national press, no fewer than three scientific studies were released before the American Astronomical Society, including one by the National Solar Observatory and the Air Force Research Laboratory, predicting a dramatic drop in sunspot activity in the cycle ahead – similar to what defines the Maunder Minimum. Sunspot activity has a stronger association with climate than anything humans could possibly do. And the implication is clear: low sunspot activity makes for colder weather.
Anecdotally, this makes sense to me. It used to be, for instance, that early December here around Chicago might occasion some frost on the ground, but it was always touch and go whether Santa would have to get about on wheels. The last three Decembers have seen heavy snowfalls, and last year’s covered the ground until late January. Two summers ago, it was not warm enough for my little girl to go swimming until mid-July. This spring was a complete washout – I’m guessing the entire months of April and May were anywhere from five to ten degrees below normal.
This doesn’t make one intuitively think of Global Warming, except perhaps with a certain sense of longing.
The Global Warmists are aware of this, of course, which is why you don’t actually hear that term much any more – it has been replaced by Climate Change, which is a kind of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose formulation. The temperature doesn’t actually have to rise to be proof of the damage that humans do.
I remember back in 2005, the dreadful year of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, that people of a particular persuasion were warning that this was just the beginning: that the ravages of man-made climate change would result in weather savagery worse than any in history. Odd, isn’t it, that in the five relatively mild hurricane seasons since then the doomsayers have not had the intellectual honesty to come forward and say, “oops, got that wrong.” Instead, they are pointing to this year’s devastating tornado cycle in the south and saying, “this is just the beginning…”
But imagine for a moment that, despite all that has been personally invested in climate change orthodoxy by academics whose grants and stipends derive from it, by interest groups whose funding likewise depends on stoking fear and anxiety, by bureaucrats both national and international whose livelihoods exist because of climate change, and by politicians who see in Global Warming a reason for more governmental control of ordinary people’s wasteful habits, despite all that, the argument that the sun is the real culprit actually gains credence. There would be good news and bad news.
The bad news is, of course, that a colder climate is more inimical to human happiness. Shorter growing seasons, more strain on food supplies, starvation and populations at risk. More elderly people die of cold than of heat. That, and Greenlanders will be bitterly disappointed at the loss of their promised Mediterranean climate.
On the other hand, glaciers will reconstitute themselves, the polar caps will freeze up again, polar bears will regain their habitats, and the seas will stop rising (not that they were ever rising all that much).
The other good news is that it would – or at least could – result in the overturning of much of the Obama Administration’s job-killing agenda on areas as diverse as energy policy, industrial policy, boondoggle public spending, and the EPA’s campaign to institute cap and trade where it failed in Congress.
For instance, if carbon fuels are no longer considered the ugly necessity of our gluttonous society but rather the power that liberates the virtues of prosperity, we could go back to developing our domestic reserves of oil and gas. This in turn will help lower the price of energy and foster economic growth.
We could also spare our grandchildren the pain of ponying up billions of tax dollars for the inane purpose of trying to make uneconomic fuels competitive: subsidies for solar panels, for windmills, for ethanol; regulations that mandate use of these fuels for utilities, for autos, etc; subsidies to persuade people to buy electric cars with the power of a golf cart that cost the manufacturer as much to make as a normal SUV. Maybe we can even go back to the incandescent light bulb which 95% of the country prefers.
Maybe we can even pass a law declaring that carbon dioxide is exhaled breath rather than a dangerous pollutant, and thereby keep the EPA from trying to cripple the domestic utility industry in the quixotic pursuit of a carbon-free environment.
It is true that oil and gas will eventually run out, and we will have to find replacements. But how much more efficient will that search be when it is powered by entrepreneurs seeing an opportunity and putting their ingenuity and capital to work to develop a response, than to have bureaucrats decide which fuels and which companies will be awarded taxpayer largesse to develop ideas that have taken ten years to work their way through the approval process?
During the 2008 campaign, Candidate Obama drew a sharp contrast with President Bush, saying, “we need to end the Bush administration’s war on science, where ideology trumps scientific inquiry and politics replaces expert opinion.” It will be interesting to see if he listens to the inconvenient truth spoken by the sunspot scientists in the months ahead.