The Financial Times supplement this weekend contained profiles of the world’s leading climate experts, including – the magazine promised – the world’s leading sceptic. I quickly leafed through the pages to see who had been picked as the whipping boy, expecting to see a Danish name. No, not that of Bjørn Lomborg, who became (in)famous for his book The Sceptical Environmentalist, but that of Professor Henrik Svensmark. In the end, it was Richard Lindzen.
But it is Svensmark’s research that may prove the greatest challenge to the prevailing consensus on climate dynamics. The Danish scientist, author of The Chilling Stars, become noted because of his research into cosmic rays and their effect on cloud formation. His theories contradict the IPCC’s theory of anthropogenic global warming, which basically blames last century’s rise in average global temperature on human CO2 emissions. Instead, Svensmark hypothesises that clouds created by cosmic rays, which are in part controlled by the activity of the sun, regulate the Earth’s climate. Because this contradicts the IPCC’s view of global warming, Svensmark’s theory has been ignored by the climate alarmists and the scientist himself vilified.
There have also been some more sober counterarguments – including by the British scientist Mike Lockwood, who argued in 2007 that, even if the sun influenced climate change in the past, it could not possibly be responsible for recent changes.
But new research now seems to be backing up Svensmark’s theory. Dr. Svensmark and his team undertook an elaborate laboratory experiment in a reaction chamber the size of a small room. The team duplicated the chemistry of the lower atmosphere by injecting the gases found there in the same proportions, and adding ultraviolet rays to mimic the actions of the sun.
Result: a huge number of floating microscopic droplets quickly filled the chamber. These were super-small clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules – which are the building blocks for cloud condensation nuclei – that had been catalysed by the electrons released by cosmic rays.
The point? The research experimentally identified a causal mechanism by which cosmic rays can facilitate the production of clouds in Earth’s atmosphere. This does not disprove the existence of greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect. But it does challenge the “man-only” theory, and suggests that the IPCC should consider the effect of cosmic particles in examining climate dynamics. Or, at least, accept that there is a long way to go before we fully understand climate dynamics and who plays what role.