Sun's activity not to blame for climate change

All quiet on the solar front, research shows


People are a contrary bunch. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the recent fashion for dismissing global warming as a load of hot air. Indeed, it has become de rigueur to attribute recent increases in global temperatures to something other than human industrial activity and the consequent emission of various greenhouse gases, CO2 among them.

One suggestion much loved by the sceptics is that solar activity can explain away the warming planet. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that long-term variations (over a century or so) in solar output can influence climate. The tabloid inference is that it is then quite alright to continue hunting baby pandas from turbo-charged Humvees.

Now, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's Professor Mike Lockwood, and the University of Southampton's Claus Fröhlich have analysed the activity of the sun since 1985, to see if any of this "solar climate forcing" is detectable in recent data. They found that although we have witnessed a long period of intense activity, in the last 22 years solar activity has been on the decline, and cannot be used to explain the rapid rise of global temperatures.

Their findings will not surprise many in the scientific community, they say, but should be of interest to the producers of The Great Global Warming Swindle, a television program that aired in the UK this March. The makers questioned the existence of a scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, and put forward solar activity as an alternative explanation for our warming planet.

"That program was so bad it was almost fraudulent," Lockwood says. "[The subjects raised] made for a decent scientific debate 15 years ago, but the questions have since been settled."

He says that there are strong indicators that the activity of the Sun can influence climate. The pre-industrial climate does appear to have been influenced by the Sun: for instance data from ocean sediments and ice sheet samples show that over the last 5,000 years, the monsoon belt has shifted over periods that correlate with changes in cosmic ray flux, which in turn is related to solar activity.

"There are very stong indictors that there was solar control of the pre-industrial climate," he says, refering to changes in global temperatures over the last five to six thousand years. "There is even some, contentious, statistical suggestion that solar heating persisted into the 1940s or maybe even 1950s. But there is almost no evidence that it persisted beyond then."

"All the things we know of that could have influenced climate are going in the wrong direction."

What angers Lockwood more than almost anything is the idea that an interesting area of science was being misused, and that it could be discredited. He stresses that he is not saying that the Sun has no impact on the climate: quite the reverse.

"By falsely applying pre-industrial science to the modern day, the Great Global Warming Swindle risks discrediting a very interesting area of science," he said.

He adds that there are no grounds for suggesting that there is a lag between solar activity lessenning, and a corresponding drop in temperatures, noting that although the solar activity is declining, global heating is accelerating.

"1985 was the highest peak of solar activity in maybe 6,000 years. But the peak is over now, and still temperatures are climbing," he says.

Lockwood and Fröhlich's conclusion is that the global warming we see today cannot be ascribed to solar variability, whichever of the mechanism is invoked and no matter how much the solar variation is amplified. Whichever way you slice it, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity is causing an overall warming of the planet. Yes, there is debate over the finer details of exactly how and how much, but the broad theme is clear.

"The Great Global Warming Swindle raised old debates that are going to be latched on to and used to suggest that we don't need to do anything about climate change. In that sense, it was a very destructive program," said Lockwood.

The paper Recent oppositely directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature is published in today's (Wednesday July 11th) edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society. ®

Bootnote: Ofcom is in the initial stages of investigating a complaint into the scientific foundations of The Great Global Warming Swindle. It says complex investigations are normally completed within two months, so watch this space.


Other stories you might like

  • Chip shortage forces temporary Raspberry Pi 4 price rise for the first time

    Ten-buck increase for 2GB model 'not here to stay' says Upton

    The price of a 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer is going up $10, and its supply is expected to be capped at seven million devices this year due to the ongoing global chip shortage.

    Demand for components is outstripping manufacturing capacity at the moment; pre-pandemic, assembly lines were being red-lined as cloud giants and others snapped up parts fresh out of the fabs, and the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak really threw a spanner in the works, so to speak, exacerbating the situation.

    Everything from cars to smartphones have been affected by semiconductor supply constraints, including Raspberry Pis, it appears. Stock is especially tight for the Raspberry Pi Zero and the 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 models, we're told. As the semiconductor crunch shows no signs of letting up, the Raspberry Pi project is going to bump up the price for one particular model.

    Continue reading
  • Uncle Sam to clip wings of Pegasus-like spyware – sorry, 'intrusion software' – with proposed export controls

    Surveillance tech faces trade limits as America syncs policy with treaty obligations

    More than six years after proposing export restrictions on "intrusion software," the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has formulated a rule that it believes balances the latitude required to investigate cyber threats with the need to limit dangerous code.

    The BIS on Wednesday announced an interim final rule that defines when an export license will be required to distribute what is basically commercial spyware, in order to align US policy with the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime.

    The rule [PDF] – which spans 65 pages – aims to prevent the distribution of surveillance tools, like NSO Group's Pegasus, to countries subject to arms controls, like China and Russia, while allowing legitimate security research and transactions to continue. Made available for public comment over the next 45 days, the rule is scheduled to be finalized in 90 days.

    Continue reading
  • Global IT spending to hit $4.5 trillion in 2022, says Gartner

    The future's bright, and expensive

    Corporate technology soothsayer Gartner is forecasting worldwide IT spending will hit $4.5tr in 2022, up 5.5 per cent from 2021.

    The strongest growth is set to come from enterprise software, which the analyst firm expects to increase by 11.5 per cent in 2022 to reach a global spending level of £670bn. Growth has fallen slightly, though. In 2021 it was 13.6 per cent for this market segment. The increase was driven by infrastructure software spending, which outpaced application software spending.

    The largest chunk of IT spending is set to remain communication services, which will reach £1.48tr next year, after modest growth of 2.1 per cent. The next largest category is IT services, which is set to grow by 8.9 per cent to reach $1.29tr over the next year, according to the analysts.

    Continue reading
  • Memory maker Micron moots $150bn mega manufacturing moneybag

    AI and 5G to fuel demand for new plants and R&D

    Chip giant Micron has announced a $150bn global investment plan designed to support manufacturing and research over the next decade.

    The memory maker said it would include expansion of its fabrication facilities to help meet demand.

    As well as chip shortages due to COVID-19 disruption, the $21bn-revenue company said it wanted to take advantage of the fact memory and storage accounts for around 30 per cent of the global semiconductor industry today.

    Continue reading
  • China to allow overseas investment in VPNs but Beijing keeps control of the generally discouraged tech

    Foreign ownership capped at 50%

    After years of restricting the use and ownership of VPNs, Beijing has agreed to let foreign entities hold up to a 50 per cent stake in domestic VPN companies.

    China has simultaneously a huge market and strict rules for VPNs as the country's Great Firewall attempts to keep its residents out of what it deems undesirable content and influence, such as Facebook or international news outlets.

    And while VPN technology is not illegal per se (it's just not practical for multinationals and other entities), users need a licence to operate one.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft unveils Android apps for Windows 11 (for US users only)

    Windows Insiders get their hands on the Windows Subsystem for Android

    Microsoft has further teased the arrival of the Windows Subsystem for Android by detailing how the platform will work via a newly published document for Windows Insiders.

    The document, spotted by inveterate Microsoft prodder "WalkingCat" makes for interesting reading for developers keen to make their applications work in the Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA).

    WSA itself comprises the Android OS based on the Android Open Source Project 1.1 and, like the Windows Subsystem for Linux, runs in a virtual machine.

    Continue reading
  • Software Freedom Conservancy sues TV maker Vizio for GPL infringement

    Companies using GPL software should meet their obligations, lawsuit says

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit which supports and defends free software, has taken legal action against Californian TV manufacturer Vizio Inc, claiming "repeated failures to fulfill even the basic requirements of the General Public License (GPL)."

    Member projects of the SFC include the Debian Copyright Aggregation Project, BusyBox, Git, GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, Homebrew, Mercurial, OpenWrt, phpMyAdmin, QEMU, Samba, Selenium, Wine, and many more.

    The GPL Compliance Project is described as "comprised of copyright holders in the kernel, Linux, who have contributed to Linux under its license, the GPLv2. These copyright holders have formally asked Conservancy to engage in compliance efforts for their copyrights in the Linux kernel."

    Continue reading
  • DRAM, it stacks up: SK hynix rolls out 819GB/s HBM3 tech

    Kit using the chips to appear next year at the earliest

    Korean DRAM fabber SK hynix has developed an HBM3 DRAM chip operating at 819GB/sec.

    HBM3 (High Bandwidth Memory 3) is a third generation of the HBM architecture which stacks DRAM chips one above another, connects them by vertical current-carrying holes called Through Silicon Vias (TSVs) to a base interposer board, via connecting micro-bumps, upon which is fastened a processor that accesses the data in the DRAM chip faster than it would through the traditional CPU socket interface.

    Seon-yong Cha, SK hynix's senior vice president for DRAM development, said: "Since its launch of the world's first HBM DRAM, SK hynix has succeeded in developing the industry's first HBM3 after leading the HBM2E market. We will continue our efforts to solidify our leadership in the premium memory market."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021